I've been riding a gardening high since everything seemed to be going so well. The summer squash has been putting out squash prolifically and everyday there have been more cucumbers to pick. Things are changing. Now there are some pesky pests who are honing in on my vegetables. The squash vine borer and the cucumber beetle are the villains.
These two garden pests have mercilessly dined upon my beloved vines. The squash vine borer is an ugly little thing in its larval state, which is where it does the damage. I was examining a cucumber beetle that had landed on the squash leaf and decided to knock him away. When I knocked the beetle off a large leaf of my squash plant came off too. That's when I found the rear end of this squash vine borer mooning me. As if he hadn't offended me already by damaging my squash plants.
There's not much that can be done now. I haven't used any pesticides this year which may have allowed these guys to find my plants. All I can do is manage the situation. I'll attempt to remove the borer then bury the squash vine under more dirt. This will allow the squash vine to root in more places and will lessen any possible die back from borer damage and girdling.
The cucumber beetle wouldn't have been so bad if it weren't for the bacteria it carries. I noticed about a week ago that the cucumber leaves seemed to be wilting in the heat of the day. Since it was in the mid 90's and the plants needed watered I didn't think too much of the wilt at the time but it turns out I should have. The cucumber beetle carries with it a bacteria that causes bacterial wilt. It transmits the bacteria to the plant either through its mouth or through its excrement. In the first picture below the damage doesn't look bad until you look a little closer.
Unfortunately there is no cure. My vines have a terminal illness.
Here's the culprit who brought the devastation to my cucumber vine. By all appearances he looks like a friendly little beetle. Some of his relatives even have stripes. The University of Kentucky Department of Entomology has some information on preventing cucumber beetles from damaging your crop, but for my vines it's too late.
I'll try to start over with some new vines since I have plenty of seed. Hopefully they will do well but for now I'll harvest everything I can until the vines die off.
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Friday, June 27, 2008
Enemies of the Garden: Squash Vine Borer and Cucumber Beetle
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Dave is the author of Growing The Home Garden and runs a small nursery business growing vegetables and herbs for local customers in Spring Hill, TN. (Blue Shed Gardens or FB page). He has written for gardening publications, Troy-Bilt and Lowe's and is available for edible garden consulting. Dave gardens organically and when he isn't writing, collecting seeds, or propagating plants he's parenting his 4 children as a stay at home dad.