When it comes to gardening and farming, it's easy to think that all bugs are created equal. But in fact, this is not the case. Some bugs feed on your plants, while other bugs feed on those bugs that feed on your plants. It can all be a little confusing, and it's really hard to tell sometimes which bugs are good and which are bad. For the next few weeks in celebration of summer and the height of bug season, I will be highlighting a new bug hero or villain each week! We will look at how to identify them, which plants they affect, how they affect your plants and possible solutions for prevention.
THE CUCUMBER BEETLE
How to Identify: Adult striped cucumber beetles (pictured below) are about a quarter inch long and have a yellow-and-black–striped abdomen with a dark-colored head and antennae. Spotted cucumber beetles are the same length with 12 black spots on their yellow abdomen. The larvae are worm-like, white, dark-headed, and have three pairs of legs on the thorax.
Affected Plants: Cucumber, summer squash, pumpkin, beans.
Visual Affect on Plants: While less the invasive larvae feed on roots, adult feeding is more damaging to the crop. Adults feed on leaves causing stunt plant growth. Look for holes and yellowing and wilting leaves. Often, the cucumber beetles alone will not kill the plants or cause major damage, but the spread of disease will. Feeding by adult cucumber beetles can spread bacterial wilt disease among plants, even when population density is low. Adult cucumber beetles overwinter in weeds, garden debris, and woody areas. The diseases they carry can also overwinter internally and can be passed onto plants the next spring through fecal matter.
Possible Prevention Solutions:
1) Remove all debris after fall harvest to reduce overwintering habitat.
2)Rotate crops so cucurbit crops are not planted directly into soils containing overwintering populations.
3)Natural predators include beneficial insects like braconid wasps, some nematodes, and soldier beetles.