Striped cucumber beetles emerge in late spring and immediately begin feeding on cucumber, melon and squash seedlings. Females lay eggs near the base of plants, and the larvae feed on the plants’ roots. Populations quickly build, and the beetles further damage plants by feeding on flower and transmitting a disease called bacterial wilt, which causes plants to wilt and die.
Plants including buckwheat, borage, catnip and radishes attract numerous beneficial that can help control cucumber beetles. Floating row covers are the most dependable way to protect plants. Delaying spring planting by two weeks can often help with cucumber beetles management. Use yellow sticky traps to monitor populations.
Striped cucumber beetles are difficult to hand pick because they are small and prone to flying away. On cool mornings, place a piece of cardboard beneath plants to catch beetles you knock to the ground. You can also coat the fingertips of a yellow rubber glove with petroleum jelly to make it easier to collect any beetles clustered in blossoms. A small vacuum is a good way to collect cucumber beetles.
Most conventionally grown cucumbers and melons are grown with dangerous systemic pesticides, so organic pest control is worth the time and effort. You can also try growing varieties like ‘Little Leaf’ and slicing cucumbers, which lack the bitter gene and are less attractive to the cucumber beetles.