The Spotted and Striped Cucumber Beetle wreak havoc on cucumber, melon and squash (Cucurbits). Here is another great trap crop, Amaranth.
One bite from these nefarious beetles and bacterial wilt enters the vines causing them to collapse and die. The vascular bundles (the nutrient transport system of the plant) get filled with bacteria and shut down the plant. Subsequently the plant will die. Plants with bacterial wilt must be pulled, burned or placed in a trash bag for removal. This plant material must not be composted. The first photo shows the effect of bacterial wilt. The second photo illustrates the bacteria expressed as gummy strings.
In my experience, the best way to prevent bacterial wilt is the use of a specific trap crop. Two (2) years ago I discovered by observation cucumber beetles eating wild pigweed (amaranth). The wild pigweed was pressing against the leaves of a cucumber plant. There was no evidence of beetle infestation!! The beetles overwhelmingly preferred the wild pigweed. The same phenomenon may be seen on cultivated varieties of amaranth.
Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company has several varieties of amaranth in their inventory – http://www.rareseeds.com/store/vegetables/amaranth/ Choose one or more varieties to entice the cucumber beetles away from you cucumbers, melons and squash .
Use amaranth as a trap crop and follow these guidelines:
- Plant amaranth next to a cucurbit crop to attract cucumber beetles as either a food source (pollen/nectar) or an egg/larval site.
- Amaranth/wild pigweed attract cucumber beetles to the border areas, where the amaranth/wild pigweed can be consumed. Pests on the cucurbit crop will be reduced. Plant cultivated varieties or wild amaranth transplants either surrounding, adjacent, at the four corners or in containers next to the crop.
- Exploit the cucumber beetles special appetite.
- Intercept the cucumber beetles from the edges.
Plant cultivated varieties of amaranth or encourage wild amaranth in your garden/property (as a trap crop) three (3) weeks prior to planting summer squash, winter squash, cucumber, cantaloupe and watermelon . The amaranth may be seeded in pots for transplanting or direct seeded, prior to direct seeding squash, cucumber and melons. Amaranth grows fast enough to satisfy the cucumber beetles appetite.
Disclaimer: Please use common sense and discretion regarding the use of wild types of amaranth (pigweed). It may be invasive in your area.