Most experienced gardeners have had a skirmish or two with cucumber beetles. Not only do they appear immediately when temperatures warm up, but there are also two common species in North America to worry about. As a gardener, you should know your enemies and have a plan for how to get rid of cucumber beetles should they arrive with plans to turn your garden into a smorgasbord.
Learn to recognize cucumber beetles
These bright yellow-green pests aren't difficult to spot. One species has twelve black spots on its back and the other has three black stripes. Both species have antennae and measure approximately one-quarter inch long. Sturdy wings allow them to move quickly through your garden and help them to avoid capture. Cucumber beetles are sometimes confused with ladybugs that are a different color, but are a similar shape and size.
Cucumber beetle diet
Although the name of cucumber beetles implies their food preference, these insects don't necessarily discriminate in gardens with other green leafy vegetables. As soon as they appear when the weather turns warm, they're so hungry that they'll eat whatever they can get. After their initial hunger is satiated, cucumber beetles turn to their favorite vine plants including squash, watermelons and pumpkins in addition to cucumbers.
How cucumber beetles damage plants
Hungry adults chew holes though the leaves of any new plant growth without discrimination. If left unchecked, damage to new growth and roots can be sizeable because they lay their eggs at the base of plants, giving their larvae easy access to root systems and eventually plant stems. Cucumber beetles are also responsible for spreading another garden problem, bacterial wilt. This fungus will also destroy your garden if these beetles aren't controlled.
Get rid of cucumber beetles
There are several effective methods to get rid of cucumber beetles and keep them from spreading in your garden:
It's important to remember that cucumber beetles don't die over the winter. Instead, they move into leaf litter and hedgerows for their dormant period. If you don't take pre-emptive steps to get rid of cucumber beetles early in the season, you're guaranteed to lose crops to these insatiable garden enemies.