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  • Writer's pictureGraham Ottoson

Oh Cucumber Beetle, So Cute and So Leetle!

It's been a good year for cucumber beetles at Gourdlandia. Despite the pledge right in Gourdlandia's anthem, we have not been able to keep the patch cucumber beetle free. Au contraire. Maybe it was the mild winter, or possibly the heavy use of leaf mulch... whatever the cause, they've been testing me right from the start! Like, even before I took the row cover off. Somehow, they got in to some of them, and caused irreparable damage to stem and roots. Those were the striped cucumber beetles. Now the spotted fellows have moved in! No rest for the weary.

After doing a bunch of research (scroll to the bottom for links to my favorite articles), I've tried:

  • aluminum foil at the base of the plant

  • diatomaceous earth applied right at the stem

  • Neem oil sprayed on the leaves and stem

  • handpicking... lots and lots of this

  • traps...I had a great idea to make beetle traps out of gourds, based on the ones I read about in the University of Missouri article (see below). Alas, I can't get my hand on "stun pills", and the beetles don't seem particularly interested in the pheromone-baited gourds. So much for poetic justice!

  • Speaking of poetry, I've tried even that! Wasn't particularly effective, but made me feel better. Scroll down for that, too.

  • soap spray... haven't tried this yet, but it's been suggested

Here's what I'm going to try next year:

  • planting a trap crop of blue hubbard squash, two weeks before the gourds

  • reflective plastic sheeting for mulch, and straw rather than leaves

  • leaving the row cover on even longer, as long as possible

  • planting radishes nearby, and other things beetles don't like

  • Otto says nothing replaces hand-picking, so we'll still be out there doing that!

  • hopefully I'll find a trap that really works

Here are some questions I have... I welcome any advice anyone out there has! (I've reached out to a few helpful local entomologists, too).

  • When I plant blue hubbard squash as a trap crop next year, do I have to kill the beetles that find it? Or do I leave it for the whole season? Isn't that just an invitation for more beetles?

  • Will diatomaceous earth at the base of the stem be helpful, or cause problems by harming the beneficial nematodes?

  • How important is crop rotation? We had cucumber beetles the first year we used our current site. I really want to continue to grow gourds at Gourdlandia! If I plant 5 feet away from where there was a plant the previous year, is that good enough? There is a field across the hedgerow that is full of cucumber beetles, so will rotating really make a difference?

  • I found a small cache of 9 dead beetles all together on a gourd leaf. Why did this happen? If only I knew how to make this happen again and again!

  • Are others having trouble this year too, or is it just me?

  • What's the very best way to trap these beetles?

Well thanks for reading, thanks in advance for any help you can offer, and here's the poem and articles.

Oh cucumber beetle, So cute and so leetle, Why do you do me these wrongs? It's not just you, Mister, But Uncle, and Sister... Your family, the Hordes and the Throngs! If it were only you, I could spare one or two Of my pepos (the immature gourds) But they've chosen to dine Upon the whole vine These masses, the Throngs and the Hordes! They don't take the hint When I spray them with mint Or with Neem, or with diatomaceous... They persist in their visit Oh tell me, why is it? As a host, I could not be less gracious! So please tell the lot That they really must NOT Cause my sweet viney darlings to wilt! They must now desist, For if they persist Their beetle bug blood will be spilt! I'll squash them and mush them And pop them and squish them I'll trap them and fry them for dinner I'll bait them and trick them And even hand pick them It's war, and I must be the winner! Oh cucumber beetle, So cute and so leetle, So stripey and nimble and gay You must catch my drift, Go Now! Be swift! Exhort them to all go away! But wait, one more thing Before you take wing Just one more small thing I must do... If you would please come Twixt my finger and thumb... That's right, yes that's very good... ew.

Graham Ottoson

Summer 2016

Cooperative Extension article from 2015; good summary:

Cornell University Department of Plant Pathology article, dated but thorough:

University of Missouri article, has instructions for making traps

Here's the anthem, sung to the tune of O Canada!

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