Is something gnawing on the leaves of your cucumber plant? A bug might be harboring on your garden and feeding on your cucumbers. If not addressed right away, the foraging habit will cause severe damages to the plant, which may lead to its death. Also, the bugs that eat cucumber plants may spread on other plants in your garden. When that happens, you’ll face a big problem.
The moment you discover the signs of a plant pest, you should act right away. Identification is the key, followed by an effective elimination method to save your cucumbers.
In this post, we will guide you through the common bugs that may infest your cucumber as well as elimination methods that you can do. We will also add some tips on how to take care of your cucumber plant for a better harvest.
Insects and bugs that eat cucumber plants
Many pests may infect your garden, but there are specific bugs that eat cucumber plants. In an infestation, the key is to identify the species so you can prepare the right solution.
The following are some of the most notorious insect pests and bugs that may ravage your prized cucumbers:
If there’s one bug that will cause irreversible damage to your cucumbers, it would be the namesake Cucumber Beetle. This bug has two varieties, but they look almost the same.
The first one is striped with orange or yellowish colors. The other one is spotted with 12 dark spots all over its back. Both of these varieties will grow up to a quarter of an inch.
The damage that these beetles can do in your cucumbers is as striking as their colors. Cucumber beetles will gnaw cucumber leaves, stems, fruits, and flowers. Failure to spot and eliminate this pest will result in the death of the plant.
Aside from their foraging habits, Cucumber Beetles also bring bacterial wilt as well as cucumber mosaic. Both of these are diseases that are not incurable once it infested a plant.
Whiteflies are another bug that may infest cucumber plants. However, you have to be careful in identifying whiteflies species as some aren’t really harmful. You should go after greenhouse and Silverleaf whiteflies.
Whiteflies have similar behavior to aphids. They produce honeydew after sucking the sap and nutrients of the host plant. This honeydew will coat the plant and block photosynthesis. Over time, it can cause the plant to wilt and die.
You have to arrest the presence of whiteflies to prevent massive damages.
Aphids are one of the most notorious pests that may invade your garden. Some species target cucumber, specifically melon aphids, also called the cotton aphids. These aphids can be greenish or yellowish and can grow up to 1/16th of an inch.
Since aphids are very small, it can be difficult by the naked eye. Usually, you can find this on the underside of leaves where they suck out plant sap. After that, they produce honeydew that ants love to eat.
To remove melon aphids, you should use spot sprays, especially if the infestation is limited to specific areas. As much as possible, you’d want to limit the use of insecticides.
Pickleworms are very destructive to cucumber plants. It’s also notorious in damaging cantaloupes, pumpkins, and summer squash. It may also infest watermelons, but not known to cause serious damages.
The caterpillar will tunnel on the stem, flower, bud, and fruit of the cucumber plant. They tend to gravitate toward the fruit the most. The tricky part about pickle worms is that you can’t see its presence until you’ve cut the fruit. It’s a surprise you wouldn’t want to have on your cucumbers.
Moreover, pickle worms can’t stand very cold temperatures. However, during summer, they can cause irreversible damages to cucurbit plants.
Lastly, you should watch out for squash bugs. It’s known to be one of the most destructive pests in a garden. Like aphids, it’s a sap-feeding bug that will suck the life out of your cucumber plants. Over time, your cucumber plant will wilt and become brittle.
Usually, the adults and nymphs will cluster on the crown of the planet. When disturbed, this pest will seek a place to hide.
It’s easy to spot squash bugs since they congregate under the leaves.
How to eliminate bugs that eat cucumber plants
Once you spotted the bugs that eat cucumber plants, you must remove it right away. Here are some of the options you can try:
*Utilize sticky traps to catch beetles
To use this method, you have to spot where the cucumber beetles are hiding. Once you identify the affected area, place the sticky pads beneath it. Next, knock the beetles until they fall into the trap.
You can handpick the beetles, too, and place them into the trap. Just make sure that you wear yellow gloves so you can pluck the bugs easily. Also, cover the gloves with petroleum jelly so the bugs will stick easily.
*Attract beneficial insects
If you don’t want to make the fuss of plucking the bugs on your own, you can let beneficial insects do the job. Ladybugs are the best defense against aphids and other bugs.
Another beneficial insect that you can welcome in your garden is lacewings. It feeds on nectar and pollen, but they are also voracious eaters of aphids. They are so effective in fighting aphids that’s why they are dubbed as ‘aphid lions’.
If caterpillars are ravaging your cucumbers, you can attract ground beetles to your garden. This insect eats cutworms, slugs, maggots, and other worms. Some ground beetles will also hunt for caterpillars on the stems of the plant.
*Apply dust pesticides
Another choice that you have is dust pesticide. Bt dust is the most effective in targeting soft-bodied pests like caterpillars. You just need to dust the leaves of the affected plant so the pest will ingest it. Once the caterpillar and soft-bodied pest consume the dust, they will stop feeding for hours. After a few days, the pest will die.
The good thing about Bt dust is it doesn’t harm beneficial insects. It’s also very easy to apply, not to mention that it’s not dangerous for humans and pets.
*Spray a fast-acting insecticide
If the infestation is already on its advanced stage, you can use a fast-acting insecticide. Look for an organic formula that’s safe to use on edible plants even on the day of harvesting. Also, check if the insecticide you’re using is made to exterminate a specific pest you want to eliminate.
Are you looking for the most effective bug spray for your plants? Check our top 5 picks here!
*Handpick and crush the beetles
If the beetle infestation in your cucumber is still minimal, you can pluck the beetles and drop it on a bucket of soapy water. This will ensure that the pests will die before you dispose of it. It will also prevent the spread of the infestation.
*Deploy beneficial nematodes
Lastly, you can try using beneficial nematodes. It’s effective in killing mites. Such nematodes are microscopic worms that will eat through the exoskeleton of the insect until it reaches their inner bodies. Some will enter the body of the insect and damage their internal organs.
Take note that beneficial nematodes are only alive at a specific period of time. Also, you should administer the nematodes by mixing it on water. To keep the nematodes effective, you should apply it at night.
Tips to protect cucumber from bugs
Like what they say, prevention is better than cure. If your cucumbers are still free from bugs that eat cucumber plants, you should employ these preventive measures to dodge the damages the pest may bring:
*Use row covers
To prevent bugs from transferring from one plant to another, you should use a row cover. This is also effective in driving birds and stray animals away.
You can also improvise using a sheet of net and some stakes. Just make sure that nets are dense enough to stop the bugs on its tracks.
*Avoid direct seeding
If you’re yet to plant your cucumbers, we recommend transplanting the young sprouts instead of direct seeding. This will avoid the proliferation of pests on its infancy. Also, it will protect other seedlings from potential damages.
*Consider resistant cucumber varieties
Was your last cucumber harvest mired with pests? If you’re planning to plant another set of cucumber seeds, we recommend looking for pest-resistant types. The likes of Stono, Piccadilly, and Poinsett cucumbers are known to be resistant against Cucumber Beetles.
Take note that it’s not just the pest that you’re avoiding, but the bacterial wilt that it could bring. Always keep this mind when choosing a pest-resistant cucumber species.
*Keep your garden clean
Another way to keep pests away is keeping a clean garden. Remove dead leaves and other unkempt bushes where the pests may hide and reproduce. By doing this, you’re also preventing the proliferation of non-plant pests like termites.
Always prune your plants and make sure that you removed dead leaves from your cucumbers. Inspection is also a crucial part in diagnosing the presence of pests.
*Plant companion foliage
Companion planting is a great way to fight pests naturally. Tansy is a great companion plant for cucumbers since its smell help repel beetles.
If you want something ornamental, Marigolds are a good choice. Meanwhile, nasturtiums are another flowering plant that will keep bugs away from your cucumbers.
Herbs like oregano and dill have an excellent reputation in repelling various insects that may damage fruit-bearing plants.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Why is my cucumber plant has holes?
A: Pests that eat leaves will cause holes in the leaves of the plant. However, if the holes are in the fruits, it’s possible that proper irrigation is the cause. Still, you should check if the holes are caused by another insect pest that feeds on the fruit of the plant.
Q: Can caterpillars eat the fruit of my cucumber plant?
A: Yes, Monarch caterpillars can tunnel through fruits like cucumber, pumpkin, zucchini, and other cucurbit plants. Usually, tunnelling caterpillars will leave black frass all over the fruit. If you see this, you should look for the pest and remove it from the plant right away.
Q: Can I kill cucumber beetles by spraying soapy water on the plant?
A: Soapy water may not work well on all insects. If you want to kill beetles with soap, it’s best to pluck them out and place them in a bucket of soapy water. This is a budget-friendly way of removing the pest, though some smaller pests could be difficult to remove by hand.
Q: Can I remove cucumber pest without using insecticides?
A: Yes, there are natural ways to eliminate the pest in your garden. You can use a mixture of vinegar water or diluted neem oil. These are effective in killing the pests after multiple applications. Just make sure that the solution you’re going to use isn’t detrimental to the health of the cucumber plant. Always spray a small amount in a leaf before applying it all over your garden.
Q: Where do cucumber worms come from?
A: This pest can come from the ground or be transferred from one infected plant to another. The larvae could be so small that it’s hard to detect where it originally came from. Some of it will ravage the roots of the plants, which will result in the eventual death of your cucumbers.
Bugs that eat cucumber plants will cause serious damages to your fruit-bearing foliage. You should act fast to eliminate the infestation right away. As a cucurbit plant, cucumbers are prone to bugs and caterpillars that tunnel into the fruit. Still, there are simple solutions that you can use to get rid of the pesky bugs.
Are you dealing with bugs on your vegetable garden? What are you doing to get rid of it? Let us know in the comment section!