Photo by Melody

Insect Profile: Cucumber Beetles

By Tamara Galbraith (TexasTamMay 31, 2010

The kids will soon be wrapping up their school year, the NHL and NBA are heading toward their respective post-seasons...and the cucumber beetles are preparing to party harder than Paris Hilton.

Gardening picture

(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on April 3, 2007.)

Overwintering as adults in protected areas near buildings, in fencerows, etc., cucumber beetles become active in mid-spring, when temperatures begin to increase. Eggs are laid and hatched, and the young beetles feed on plant roots.

ImageThere are a couple of different varieties in the U.S.: the striped cucumber beetle is an elongated orange insect with distinct black stripes, while the Southern cucumber beetle -- also called the Southern corn rootworm, is stubbier, yellower, and wears black spots on its back.

The worst trait of these little beasts is that the organism for bacterial wilt can overwinter in their gut. (Plants infected with baterial wilt will not survive, and should be promptly destroyed, not composted.) The beetle's mere chewing on plants can spread the disease, so it's important to start control early...and be diligent.

Lacewings and ladybugs eat cucumber beetle eggs, so as always, you should welcome those beneficial insects to your garden. Interplanting repellent herbs like catnip, marigolds (the smellier varieties) and nasturtiums can also help. On food crops like zucchinis, cucumbers and melons, use row covers to keep the beetles from reaching the plants.

Lastly, know this: cucumber beetles are tough to kill. Scientists continue to work on organic methods for their control but so far, just like Paris Hilton, they seem content to hang out and mooch.

  About Tamara Galbraith  
Tamara GalbraithI am an avid organic gardener and former Master Gardener for Collin County, Texas. I enjoy growing nearly everything, from vegetables to herbs to tropicals. Lately I have been converting the flower beds in my Zone 8 home to all Texas natives. In my non-gardening spare time, I enjoy cooking, reading, birdwatching or hugging on either my sweet English hubby or our Golden Retriever, Monty.

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