We have seen very high populations of striped cucumber beetles on squash, pumpkins, cantaloupe, watermelon and other cucurbits over the last few weeks. These populations at times have reached over 20-30 beetles per plant. If a spray was missed or plants were not thoroughly covered with an insecticide application the beetles would soon consume that unprotected area very rapidly (Fig. 1). This area is often times the base of the plant. This is especially true if the cucurbits are sprayed with an air-blast sprayer. While air-blast sprayers do a good job of covering leaves with material, they often do not do a great job of covering the base of a plant and heavy feeding can occur (Fig. 2). The feeding can lead to plants being girdled by beetles or can lead to bacterial wilt infection—even though the leaves of the plant show almost no feeding. This feeding by the beetles also opens the base of the stem to infection from soil organisms and greater rates of Fusarium and bacterial soft rots are possible. When beetle populations are this high the base of the plant, even more so than the foliage, needs to be protected from heavy feeding.
Figure 1. Two squash leaves fed upon heavily by striped cucumber beetles because of the lack of good spray coverage.
Figure 2. Base of pumpkin plants damaged by striped cucumber beetles due to poor spray coverage