Edible Landscaping

Charlie says… Control Cucumber Beetles with Squash

Cucumber beetles are the scourge or many a gardener. Use trap crops of buttercup squash to divert their attention away from your cukes and focus your spraying.

If there's one pest I always have difficulty stopping, it's the cucumber beetle. The striped or spotted versions attack cucumber seedlings, flowers, and plants, not only stunting growth, but also spreading bacterial wilt disease. While many effective organic sprays have been developed for other common vegetable garden pests, such as Colorado potato beetle and cabbageworms, cucumber beetles remain a tough insect to control without resorting to an array of traps, covers, and sprays. Now I have another weapon in my arsenal, trap crops.

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts have experimented with controlling cucumber beetles by planting a trap crop of buttercup squash. It seems the cucumber beetles can't resist the buttercup squash plants and flock to them before they go to the cucumber plants. This allows the grower to concentrate sprays, such as pyrethum and Neem oil, on the squash plants, reducing the number of beetles that eventually make it to the cucumbers. When planted as a perimeter crop around cucumber fields, researchers achieved a 97 percent reduction in insecticide sprays to control the beetles on cucumbers. Blue hubbard also was an equally effective trap crop, so you can grow a combination of both. While most home gardeners don't grow "fields" of cucumbers, this method may still be a good one to try, even in a small garden, to reduce the damage from these pesky beetles.

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