Both the striped and spotted cucumber beetles are similar in size, shape and color. The spotted cucumber beetle is lime green and with 12 black spots on its wings. The striped cucumber beetle is yellow with three long horizontal stripes on his wings. Both are small, about 1/5” long and 1/10” wide. Eggs are pale orange, laid in groups, with the larvae small and creamy white in color.
In our garden we have both species of cucumber beetles. They overwinter in leaf and garden litter and emerge late May or early June.
Cucumber beetles may be found on any of the cucurbits in your garden. This includes squash, melons and of course cucumbers. They may also be found strolling across other vegetables on their way to a favorite cucurbit in your garden.
They may cause damage to the plants while feeding but they may also carry disease and transmit that to your plants.
Watch your plants for signs of disease. Remove beetles when you see them as well as other bugs such as aphids and squash bugs. Keep a tidy garden by removing debris and keeping your garden, aisles and fence lines clear of weeds.
Bug barrier protection – cover your plants with very fine material such as Tulle or floating row covers. Cover plants at planting time or before the weather warms. Hand removal of the beetles and removing crop residue may offer protection.
Remove weeds in and around your garden as they are potential feeding/nesting places for many types of bugs as well as cucumber beetles.
Companion planting of repellant plants such as radish, tansy, borage or nasturtium may be grown nearby. Some of these plants grow quite large so give them room to grow without crowding the cucumbers.
Inter-planting of various crops may also deter cucumber beetles. They grow well with beans and tomatoes as well as peas, radishes and members of the cabbage family.
Control: The best control and least damaging to your crop and your family is hand picking. Cucumber beetles will fly but they are relatively easy to catch. You can squish them or drop them in soapy water or a bottle of alcohol.Floating row covers are effective during the early stage of growth. They should be removed when the cucumber begins to flower. Plants will thrive in this bug free environment, developing leaf and vine growth needed for cucumber production later in the growing season. Weeds may also thrive in the moist environment produced under a cover – monitor it regularly. Mulch, such as straw, hay and paper may help keep the weeds in check.
Aluminum-coated and aluminum-striped plastic under the plants has been shown to reduce cucumber beetles. Another way to reduce overwintering populations is to remove garden residue and cultivate your garden.
As a last resort an organic/approved pesticide may be necessary. There is a list in garden shed of acceptable organic pesticides or click here to view natural bug & disease control.
Reminder: approved organic pesticides are still pesticides so use them carefully and correctly. Read the instructions for proper application.