View My YouTube Videos


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Invasion of Spotted Cucumber Beetles

Ozarks Gardening
Jim Long

An Invasion of Cucumber  Beetles

Hordes of the twelve-spotted cucumber beetles arrived in my garden last week. As if the eight weeks of no rain in our area wasn’t bad enough, here come the bugs!

The first wave of cucumber beetles hatch out of the soil in early spring, just when most of us are planting curcurbits (the plant family which includes cucumbers, melons, squashes and pumpkins). As the beetles emerge from the soil they eat the seedling curcurbits, both the leaves and the young stems. Then things settle down for awhile, with another wave of the pests in late summer.

Cucumber beetles are present throughout the United States and cause serious damage to most curcurbit crops. Over wintering adult insects cause feeding damage on young plants, larvae in the soil feed on plant roots and second-generation adults cause feeding damage on plant leaves, blossoms and fruits.

The adult insects transmit bacterial wilt and squash mosaic virus. Organic management measures include delayed planting in spring, trap crops, floating row covers, parasitic organisms and botanical pesticides.

However, there is no one single solution for these pests. Some people spray with conventional insecticides, but that has little effect simply because of the large numbers of the insects. The additional problem with the spraying broad-spectrum insecticides is the chemicals kill the beneficial insects along with the beetles, and only the cucumber beetles that come in contact with the insecticide are effected. In my garden, the numbers of spotted cucumber beetles are so vast, there is no way of spraying, even if I was willing to kill everything alive in the garden.

Control measures consist of preventing the larvae in the spring from hatching and destroying plants by the use of a combination of parasitic nematodes and biopesticides. Parasitic nematodes produce ineffective spores that attach to the larval host, multiply inside the host and killing the larvae. Parasitic nematodes find and penetrate soil-dwelling larvae of cucumber beetles. (Mycotrol-O is a commercially available mycoinsecticide formulation containing spores of the fungus).

The next step in controlling spotted and striped cucumber beetle is the use of trap plants around the edge of the garden, if you have the space. There are several curcurbits the beetles like most, and the idea is to plant these crops a week or two earlier than your other curcurbits, hoping the beetles go after the tender, tasty ones first, giving you a couple of additional weeks longer to harvest your crop.

My late planted cucumbers were wiped out in just two days. The cucumber beetle population has exploded and just walking through my garden means dozens of beetles lighting on my arms and face. They’ve devastated the tomatoes, killed the leaves of the okra and defoliated several basil plants. They’re eating into the not quite ripe peaches on the peach trees, ruining those, just as they are eating into the remaining tomatoes. They're eating the blossoms of my loofah sponge vines and are defoliating my sweet potato vines.

Predators and parasites that prey on cucumber beetles include hunting spiders, web-weaving spiders, soldier beetles, carabid ground beetles, tachinid flies, braconid wasps, bats and entomopathogenic fungi and nematodes. Bats eat large numbers of cucumber beetles and several web sites suggest putting up bat houses, too.

To see photos of both the twelve-spotted and the striped cucumber beetle, as well as links for more information, including sources of the controls I’ve mentioned, go to the Ozarks Gardening blog: Meanwhile, I hope your garden is doing better than mine this week. Questions and comments can be posted on the comments page of the blog.  (You can also sign up to follow Ozarks Garden blog, to be notified when a new column is posted and it's possible to search the columns by subject). Happy gardening!

For more information about controlling cucumber beetles: National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service.

Companies that sell beneficial insects, parasitic insects and biopesticides, scroll to the bottom of this page:

Visit my website to see my books and Nail Fungus Soak:

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Finding Information for Your Garden

Ozarks Gardening, August 17, 2010
Jim Long

I receive questions by email each week from readers, and I’m always happy to try and answer. The questions fall into two categories: (1) wanting specific information about a plant, or (2) looking for information about finding a seed, plant or supplement.

When I make a reference to a specific plant, seed or organic product, I always try to list the source where readers can find that item. Occasionally I leave out a source, and when that happens and you want the information there are two easy ways to get access to that information.

The first method should always be to do a simple Google search. For those who use computers for email, but may not use it for anything else, here’s the method. Look at the screen you use for email. The screen you see is a “browser.” No matter whether you use AOL, Firefox, Safari or some other browser, everyone uses some form of a browser to access the internet. The browser is the page you see on your computer screen when you are connected to the internet.

Look at the upper right corner of your browser’s page. There will be a blank box that is labeled either Yahoo or Google. Simply type in the word, plant or seed you are looking for and hit the return button on your keyboard (or click on the find symbol next to the box). That will allow Google to search the entire internet for the reference you are looking for. So if you are looking for Red Seeded Chinese Long Bean, type that in and it will bring up references (including links to my blog postings, other people’s writings, and the sources where you can buy the seed). It’s that simple. Don’t know how to spell the name? Get as close as you can in the Google search, Google will bring up the corrected word. And, no, doing a Google search does not open you up to Spam. No one can get information from you when you are simply doing searches for information.

The other method is to type in my website address: and when you arrive on my home page, look for the button (on the pull-down menu) titled, “Looking for Plants?” That page will take you to my list of recommendations of plant and seed sources, with links directly to those so you can browse through their on-line catalogs.

So many times the internet is the last place people go to find information, and yet it probably should be the first place they think of. Want information about controlling potato beetles, or whether control is even necessary? In less than 2 seconds you can have that information right in front of you. Need to know where to find Native American bean information? As fast as you can type it in the Google box, you will have the information. Want to know what bugs are good bugs to have in the garden, or how to control a new undesirable bug? You can find the information on Google. Insects bothering your indoor ferns or houseplants? The answer is a simple click away by doing a Google search.

If you miss one of my columns, or want to reread something I’ve written about previously, you will likely find it on my Ozarks Gardening blog. Type in this address: You can go there and read the postings. I would be grateful if you would click the “Follow” button and follow the instructions. That will let me know that people are actually reading my OzarksGardening blog. You will get a notification by email every time I post a new column there, as well, so you won’t miss any. You can leave comments and ask questions, too.

My website:; see what’s happening in my garden each week on my garden blog:, and now the new Ozarks Gardening blog which archives my columns in this newspaper: Happy gardening!