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Top Tips to Stop Cucumber Beetles

Top Tips to Stop Cucumber Beetles

Have cucumber beetles been an issue in your vegetable garden? They were a big problem in mine. I struggled with them for two consecutive years until I made a few sacrifices to get rid of them naturally.

Last year, my garden was free of cucumber beetles, and my cucumber and zucchini plants were abundant. They produced so many fruits that I eventually stopped harvesting them and let them go to seed. I believe I found a way to stop cucumber beetles from finding my garden, and it’s not as complicated as you may think.

In this post, I share my top tips for stopping cucumber beetles in your garden.

Top Tip to Stop Cucumber Beetles

Caught! Two mating cucumber beetles.

Don’t rush planting

Are you eager to plant out your cucurbit plants immediately after the final frost date? Hold on. It’s better to wait 3 to 4 weeks after the final frost date to get them transplanted into the garden. Patience is a virtue in gardening, and it will definitely pay off. The benefits of waiting will outweigh an early harvest.

Life cycle of a cucumber beetle

According to the Entomology and Nematology Department, University of Florida, adult beetles emerge in the spring when soil temperatures have reached 13°C (55°F). Until cucurbits are available, they will feed on pollen and foliage of alternative host plants, such as willow, apple, hawthorn, goldenrod and aster. Once cucurbit seedlings are transplanted to the garden or emerge from the soil, adult beetles will move to these preferred hosts to feed and mate. (Evans & Renkema, 2018)

By waiting to plant up to 4 weeks after the final frost date, any emergent adult beetles present in the spring will have nothing to feed on and will move on, particularly if any of the host plants mentioned above have been weeded from the garden. In addition, a lack of a food source will prevent them from feeding, mating and laying eggs in the soil, thereby preventing the next generation of cucumber beetles. By the time you transplant out your cucurbit seedlings, your garden will be free of these pests.

Transplant seedlings rather than direct sow

Start all cucurbit seeds indoors rather than directly sow them in the garden! This is vital if cucumber beetles have been a problem in previous years. I recommend starting seeds indoors around the final frost date or four weeks before their intended transplanting time. By giving them this head start indoors, seedlings will be a good size and closer to producing flowers and fruit.

Top Tip to Stop Cucumber Beetles

Mature seedlings transplanted to the garden will flower and produce fruit faster than directly sown seeds.

Consider crop rotation

Consider rotating your cucurbit crops to a different location in the garden the following year. This will prevent an immediate infestation should cucumber beetle eggs have overwintered in the soil. Choose a new planting bed or use a grow bag to grow your cucurbit plants.

Top Tip to Stop Cucumber Beetles

If all else fails…

Take one year off from planting any cucurbit family crops (i.e. cucumbers, zucchini, squash, pumpkins, melons, cucamelon, gourds and luffa).

The best thing I did for my garden was take one full year off. That year, I didn’t plant anything from the cucurbit family. When overwintered larvae and pupae emerged from the soil the following spring, host plants were unavailable for feeding, causing them to abandon my garden. That summer, my garden was not only cucumber beetle-free but also squash bug and squash vine borer-free. Although I could not grow my own, I felt relieved to be free of these destructive pests. The following year, I waited four weeks to plant out my cucumber and zucchini plants, and my garden was beetle-free. This year, I am waiting again to plant out my cucurbits. I know they will all catch up because they are quickly maturing crops, and I feel confident that I won’t reencounter these pests.

The key is to be patient and trust that nature works on her schedule. If I don’t provide a food source for cucumber beetles, they won’t return later in the summer since their most active time is in the spring, during the start of their life cycle. Since my garden won’t offer them a food source, I know they won’t be present later in the summer.

If you have struggled with cucumber beetles in the past, I recommend giving these tips a try. They have worked for me and couldn’t be easier. It just takes a little patience and trust in the process.

Happy Gardening!

References: Evans, B. G., & Renkema, J. M. (2018). Common name: Striped cucumber beetle scientific name: Acalymma vittatum F. (Insecta: Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae. Entomology and Nematology Department. Retrieved June 27, 2024, from (https://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/VEG/BEAN/striped_cucumber_beetle.html)

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Julia Dimakos

Hi, I'm Julia from Mono, Ontario, Canada. I began my gardening adventure after having children. Since then, my interest grew into a passion. I love growing vegetables, herbs, flowers, fruit and medicinal herbs. I'm here to show you that growing your own food is not difficult and in fact can be simple.