Cucumber Beetles vs. Erin


| 7/11/2014 3:08:00 PM


Erin SheehanIn 2009, we had a bumper cucumber crop. Our harvest was so good that we had all we could eat, and I canned pickles and relish for the first time – 1,000-Island pickles using my grandmother’s recipe and cucumber relish using my mom’s recipe.

 

relish

Then came 2010. And 2011. And 2012. All three years, we sowed cucumber seeds in the ground and faithfully watered. Each year the plants grew and thrived, but about when they started to blossom they abruptly wilted and, soon after, died. So discouraging! Last summer, having pulled the last of my remaining relish out of the canning cellar, I had to can relish with cucumbers my mom BOUGHT! I felt like such a failure.

Last year, Jim tried to make up for our past disastrous efforts by planting an entire package of cucumber seeds along the front fence of our home garden plot. He thought if we over-planted perhaps we’d end up with at least a few cucumbers. A few weeks after planting, I noticed a heavy infestation of yellow-and-black-striped insects on the plants. Not having any idea what they were, I called up my favorite gardening guru: Mom. She correctly identified them as cucumber beetles.



bugsReading up on cucumber beetles, I realized that they were the likely cause of our previous crop failures. Although the beetles themselves don’t generally do significant damage, they carry a bacterium that infects the plant with bacterial wilt and subsequently kills it. The beetles also eat squash plants. Our concentration of squash and cucumbers in one area of the garden attracted mass quantities of these destructive bugs.