Looking for information on how to get rid of cucumber beetles naturally in the garden? You’re in the right place.
When it comes to precious garden plants like squash, pumpkins, and of course, cucumbers, it seems there is no shortage of pests lying in wait to munch upon their tender fruits or bright green leaves.
Cucumber beetles are among the eager, appearing first thing in the spring and having the ability to decimate an entire crop.
If you’re ready to learn more about getting rid of cucumber beetles, there’s no time to waste.
We're going to cover everything you need to know to restore balance in your garden or greenhouse. We'll start with how to identify these bugs, and then explain what type of damage they can do if left to do their bidding.
After that, we'll share the top prevention tips. Of course, we'll conclude this guide with how to get rid of cucumber beetles naturally, whether they're on your plants, in your media, etc.
What Are Cucumber Beetles?
While most gardeners use the term “cucumber beetle” interchangeably, there are actually two different varieties of cucumber beetles to know about.
The damage they inflict is the same but the two look noticeably different. The striped cucumber beetle can either be a yellowish- or orangish-green. It has three dark black stripes.
The spotted cucumber beetle is the same color, but as the name implies, has black spots instead of stripes. Both are roughly ¼ of an inch long.
What Plants Do Cucumber Beetles Go After?
Cucumber beetles are most common on cucumber plants, as you might guess from the name alone.
However, they’ll also target the fruits, flowers, and leaves of plants like melons, beans, squash, eggplant, corn, and asparagus.
These voracious feeders not only damage plants and their many parts, but also spread a variety of diseases. If you have cucumbers in your garden along with other plants, it's likely every plant in your plot can be made a target.
What Attracts Cucumber Beetles The Most?
Cucumber beetles are attracted to host plants by a chemical known as cucurbitacin - this is the ingredient that gives cucurbit vegetables their trademark bitter taste.
Used as a defense mechanism for various types of herbivores, it, unfortunately, is what makes these plants so attractive to cucumber beetles and similar pests.
What Damage Can Cucumber Beetles Do In The Garden?
Cucumber beetles can seriously damage and defoliate a plant’s leaves. However, the real detriment posed by these pests is their ability to carry and spread a variety of diseases, including cucumber mosaic virus and bacterial wilt.
These diseases affect all kinds of plants in the cucurbit family, including melons, squash, and of course, cucumbers, with cucumbers being the most negatively affected.
Cucumber beetles harbor thep pathogens that cause these diseases in their digestive tracts. As they move between plants to eat, they spread the diseases.
Unfortunately, as soon as a plant has been infected, there is no cure and it will either die or be severely stunted.
Both adult and larval forms of cucumber beetles can transmit diseases and pathogens.
That's why it's so important to learn how to get rid of cucumber beetles in your garden or greenhouse. But, it's even more beneficial that you learn how to prevent these bugs in the first place!
How To Prevent A Cucumber Beetle Infestation In The First Place
Cucumber beetles can be prevented with many of the same basic “good gardening habits” that you would use to prevent any other kind of pest or disease - or to improve your garden’s overall health.
Keep The Garden Clean
For example, practice good garden cleanliness and hygiene. Cucumber beetles overwinter in the wood.
This means while they aren’t usually destroyed by end-of-season or beginning-of-season practices like tilling, their populations can be reduced if you are already growing healthy plants.
It’s always a good idea to remove any garden trash and debris after you’ve harvested.
Consider Beneficial Bugs
You might also introduce beneficial insect predators. There are all kinds of creatures that enjoy munching on cucumber beetles.
Some of these include tachinid flies, ground beetles, entomopathogenic nematodes, braconid wasps, green lacewings, ladybugs, spined soldier bugs, and soldier beetles.
You can purchase these and introduce them in your garden to feast upon the cutworms that live there. Another option is to select resistant varieties of plants.
Act Quickly At The First Sight Of Cucumber Beetles
Check all plants regularly, regardless of the cultivar, to make sure there aren’t any cucumber beetles catching a ride.
Dispose of them immediately when you find them. Floating row covers can be effective ways of keeping these pests off your plants, particularly if you put them on seedlings and leave them in place until the plants are old enough to handle the threat of damage.
Just remove the covers when your plants are ready to blossom to give pollinators space to do their business!
Rotate your crops and water moderately to prevent the likelihood of your plants becoming weakened and more susceptible to pest infestations.
How To Get Rid Of Cucumber Beetles Naturally
Even if you follow our prevention tips to a T, you still may develop an infestation. So, let us teach you how to get rid of cucumber beetles naturally and effectively in the garden.
There are several natural solutions you can turn to, such as beneficial insects or nematodes like we mentioned earlier, but for a full blown outbreak, you may need to bust out the insecticides or neem oil.
Another option is to put kaolin clay around your plants. This material leaves behind a fine, powdery residue that insects dislike and will avoid when it comes to feeding and laying their eggs.
Hand Pick Cucumber Beetles Off Your Plants
One common practice that gardeners rely on to kill cucumber beetles is handpicking. What should you do when you pluck a cucumber beetle off your plants?
This isn't super feasible if you have a full blown outbreak, as you'll be sitting there handpicking for hours. But, if you notice an infestation early, you can stop it in it's tracks without any supplies this way.
Will Soapy Water Kill Cucumber Beetles?
Many growers wonder whether they can spray soapy water on their plants to kill cucumber beetles, but, this isn't super effective.
Just plain soapy water from your house won't kill cucumber beetles, you need something more potent. We recommend trying a plant wash, such as neem oil.
We have a complete guide on how to use neem oil on your plants, and it has been shown to be effective in killing cucumber beetles.
Neem oil is complete natural, safe to use up to the day of harvest, and a great tool in any grower's arsenal.
What Insecticide Kills Cucumber Beetles On Plants?
There are insecticides that you can use to control cucumber beetles in your garden, and this is by far the best approach if you have a serious outbreak and you can't afford to waste any time.
Then and only then should you use insecticides. If you do decide to use insecticides, make sure you follow directions carefully, using only when safe.
Some options to consider include:
- PyGanic Gardening - OMRI Certified, broad-spectrum pesticide
- Safer Brand 3 in 1 Garden Spray Concentrate - OMRI Certified, organic pesticide that won't kill beneficial bugs
- Fox Farm "Don't Bug Me" Pyrethrin Spray - Ready-to-Use - Pre-mixed, broad use insecticide which contains Pyrethrum for a contact kill.
As a pro-tip, the best time to spray insecticides is when cucumber beetles first emerge during mid-spring. They have overwintered and will be most easily controlled by insecticidal treatments.
Treat your plants in the early evening, when the beetles are most active. You may have to spray once a week for up to three weeks, treating again at the beginning of summer so you can kill larvae in addition to adults.
Final Thoughts On How To Get Rid Of Cucumber Beetles Naturally
Cucumber beetles are known for their innate ability to wreak havoc on a garden crop. Unfortunately, they don’t just target cucumbers and will go after all kinds of other plants in the crucible family, too.
That’s the bad news - but the good news is that you now know how to get rid of cucumber beetles naturally and quickly.
Follow these tips and get everything you need to banish cucumber beetles from the garden from Hydrobuilder and you’ll be well on your way to a pest-free growing season.