Pickleworm Control: How to Identify, Prevent and Get Rid of Pickleworms

A common pest in areas with tropical climates, pickleworms can cause significant damages to a wide array of host plants. Most destructive during their larval stage, they can be a big problem in the garden, even despite their seemingly harmless small size. To prevent severe infestation, this post will let you know some of the best ways on how to get rid of pickleworms.

Pickleworms have eggs with a width of .4 to .6 millimeter and length of .8 millimeter. During the larval stage, on the other hand, it undergoes five instars. Their color will vary depending on their specific stage of development. More often than not, the color is yellowish white with noticeable dark spots. As it matures, it turns green and has a brown head. Once it transforms into a moth, it grows wings with a span of about 1.25 inches.


A Pickleworm on Cucumber

Pickleworm’s Habitat

Because pickleworms are tropical insects, they survive in places with a warm climate. They will not tolerate cold temperature. Generally, they are idle during the daytime. Most of the moths will fly from one plant to another at around five hours after sunset. They lay their eggs on the young parts of the host plants, such as growing leaves and blooming flowers.

Identifying Pickleworm’s Damage

Plants Affected

Pickleworms thrive in different cucurbit species, including those that grow in the wild and in the garden. One of the most common wild hosts is creeping cucumber. Other common host plants include squash, watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumber, and pumpkin.


Watch out for the following signs, which will be indicative of the possible presence of pickleworms:

  • One of the first parts that will show signs of damage is the leaf. In most instances, they will have holes. They will also chew the edges of the leaves. In the end, this will deprive the leaf of the nutrients it needs, and hence, can lead to discoloration, and eventually, defoliation.
  • Pickleworms can also excrete frass, a fecal material that will appear sticky. This will be mostly evident on the leaves of the host.
  • You also have to look at the fruits to determine the possible presence of pickleworms. There will be brown spots and the fecal matter will also appear on the surface.

Results of Infestation

When the infestation is severe, the results are devastating. They will cause damage on almost all parts of the plant, although the most serious is in the fruit. This will not only lead to an unattractive crop, but will also make the latter unfit for human consumption. For commercial growers, there is a great economic impact as this means loss of profitability. During the young stages, most of the damages will be apparent on the blossom of the plant. They will move from one blossom to another. In the end, they will affect the health of the plant and the host may lose its ability to bear fruit.

Damaged Summer Squash

Summer Squash Damaged by Pickleworms

How to Get Rid of Pickleworms

Natural and Organic Solutions

Thinking of the best ways to control and eliminate pickleworms? Here are some of the best solutions that will work:

  • To start with, you need to take into account the preventive measures that will deliver effectiveness. One of the first things you have to do is plant varieties that will resist this pest. Some of the plants that can resist pickleworms include Summer Crookneck and Early Prolific Straightneck. Another thing that will help is to plant at the right time. With the right timing, there is a lesser likelihood that the pickleworms will cause an infestation.
  • Handpicking the pickleworms will also work. The problem, however, is that it is an exhausting task, especially if you have to do it in a large plantation, such as in an agricultural land. Be familiar with the physical characteristics of pickleworms so that you can easily spot them. It is better to remove them while they are still eggs. If you are removing adult pickleworms, be sure to throw them in water with soap to knock them down.
  • Fruit bagging is another control procedure that may work. Like handpicking, this is also a tedious task, especially if you have to deal with lots of plants and fruits. It will also not work if the fruit is too small to be placed in a bag. Using paper bag is more effective than the use of insecticide.
  • Another cultural practice that will work is the use of row covers. This provides a protection on the top of the host plant. However, this often works only in the short-term. There are some plants that need pollination when they start flowering, which is why you have to take out the cover at one point.
  • You can also resort to the use of biological control. In this case, you have to encourage the presence of natural predators, which will feed on the pickleworms and kills them before they mature. You have two choices. You can purchase these predators and release them in the garden. Alternatively, you can also plant flowers and do other things that will attract the predators. With this, some of the predators that will be effective include soldier beetles, fire ants, and wasps, among others.

Chemical Solutions

Your last resort is to use chemicals in the treatment of pickleworms. It may be effective in killing pickleworms, but the problem is that it does not only kill the latter, but even the beneficial insects in the garden. They also have active ingredients that are toxic to humans and the environment. Because of the hazards, professional application is necessary. Also, be sure to cover the right areas to yield a high rate of success.

Among others, permethrin is one of the active compounds that you can find in insecticides that target pickleworms. Amvac is one of the brands that produce chemicals meant for pickleworms. You have to spray the solution after the first signs of damage from pickleworms. To be effective, you need to repeat the application within a week.

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