Pickleworm eggs. Sigh.

albabyNovember 2, 2011

With brave heart but foolish head, I am again attempting to grow cucumbers here in South Florida. Unlike last year, I've been able to grow out some lovely and healthy vines, free of the aphids and melonworms that ate up the foliage last season.

I had a few fruits look like they were developing nicely, but the telltale puncture holes and frass tipped me to cut them open and see all the little caterpillars inside. I've been checking each new fruit that they throw out, and sure enough every one of them gets coated with pickleworm eggs - usually right after the spines come out, before pollination. I've tried removing the eggs by hand, but I'm afraid that I'm damaging the developing fruit or blossom. None are maturing.

Any suggestions? Other than to stop being so stubborn and trying to grow cukes?


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Try using a product containing Spinosad. A couple I know of are Borer, Bagworm, Tent Caterpillar & Leafminer Spray manufactured by Ferti-Lome and Monterey Garden Insect Spray manufactured by Lawn and Garden Products, Inc. Begin using it soon after you get true leaves and spray weekly plus after rain. It won't do much for the crop you have now but should be effective for your next crop. Spinosad is an organic pesticide that kills many bad bugs but is harmless to humans and most beneficial insects. It is lethal to bees when wet though, so be sure to spray late in the day after honeybee activity. Jerry

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 1:35PM
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carolb_w_fl(zone 9/10)

If you use Bt before those eggs hatch, the caterpillars should get a mouthful when they emerge & start feeding.

But I'm wondering whether your assessment that those blooms are being covered w/ eggs (& not something else) is correct? IMPE, female cucumber blossoms tend to have lots of tiny round nubs that resemble insect eggs, & pickleworm eggs are very hard to spot....?

Here is a link that might be useful: Pickleworm

    Bookmark   November 4, 2011 at 10:48AM
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The Bt has kept them from damaging the vines and foliage, but since the eggs are right on the cukes, it can't really keep them from getting into the fruit before taking them out. They're definitely eggs, though - when I rub my fingers along the little proto-cukes, they get covered in the tiny translucent spheres deposited among the spines. However, removing the eggs by hand damages the spines as well. Occasionally I also find a hanging "cluster" of eggs dangling from one of the fruits as well.

Since all the fruits were getting damaged, I took 'em all off so that there would be fewer hosting sites. But next time one comes out, I'll take pics.


    Bookmark   November 7, 2011 at 9:39AM
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carolb_w_fl(zone 9/10)

Hmmm - IMPE, insect eggs are very hard to dislodge from plants - they're usually stuck on w/ a sort of 'glue'....?

    Bookmark   November 7, 2011 at 11:20AM
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Yep - that's why I can't get them off without hurting the little cukes. It takes a sufficient amount of pressure to get the eggs to come off, enough that the spines get broken (and thus opening up the fruit to potential decay/rot). Not that I really want to be out there each day hand-wiping the fruit, of course, but that's not even an option.

Perhaps there might be *two* different pests targeting my cukes - like I said, sometimes I also find dangling sacs of more yellowish eggs suspended from a leaf or fruit. But invariably I've got eggs on the cukes themselves.


    Bookmark   November 7, 2011 at 3:16PM
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tomncath(St Pete Z10a Heat 10)

I have not had much interest in posting lately, still grieving over the loss of my cat to a Pit Bull.

Silvia covers the cukes when they are very small with knee-high stockings, works very well for her but she's Zone 9. I've given up on growing them outside in Zone 10; weekly spraying still isn't enough to overcome pickleworm. If you have a caged swimming pool with good sun exposure you can very successfully grow certain parthenocarpic varieties inside the pool cage in 5 gallon buckets with tomato cages. I can send pictures and variety recommendations if this will help you.


    Bookmark   November 7, 2011 at 7:05PM
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tomncath(St Pete Z10a Heat 10)

    Bookmark   November 9, 2011 at 7:09PM
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Those look great, Tom. Unfortunately, I don't have any screened enclosures that can protect my poor cukes from the pickleworm moths.

I picked up some Spinosad. In the time it took for delivery, the pickleworms got into some of the vines and leaf stems. So I hacked the vines just below the lowest damage, and took off everything above that. I've got short vines with about a half-dozen leaves on each, which should be enough for them to through out new buds. I'll spray weekly, and see if that keeps the moths at back.


    Bookmark   November 13, 2011 at 9:18PM
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Just following up with some results....

After hacking back the vines, I applied the Spinosad weekly - and huzzah! Two weeks without any indicators of pickleworm damage, and two cukes grew to maturity. Several more are developing. I've been spraying in the early evening, and I think I've managed to avoid hurting the bee population, since I still see lots of bees and the cukes are getting pollinated without much problem.

So the Spinosad seemed to really do the trick. Thanks, Jerry, for the suggestion.


    Bookmark   November 28, 2011 at 10:10AM
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I am also growing some squash that is infested with pickleworms, but they seem to like it better than the cucumbers so I'm using it as a trap crop and killing them when I find them on the squash. They've totally left the cucumbers alone so far.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2011 at 10:21AM
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Good to see you are now growing your cucumbers inside your pool cage. Your cucumber pots are looking good! The recent development of parthenocarpic cucumbers for the commercial greenhouses has really made it easy for us homeowners to grow cucumbers in our pool enclosures. I really enjoy the total lack of bugs ruining my crops. I'm still waiting for them to do more work with parthenocarpic yellow summer squashes. They have a few zucchini types that work well, but I miss my straight & crook necked yellow squashes.


    Bookmark   November 30, 2011 at 8:39PM
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love_the_yard(z9A Jax FL)

Can you eat produce that has been sprayed with poison?

    Bookmark   November 30, 2011 at 9:05PM
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tomncath(St Pete Z10a Heat 10)

Hi Lou, So far Cool Breeze and Corentine have produced abundant crops inside, I still have three more untried parthenocarpics to go....

Carol, spinosad is considered organic and safe....

Description: Spinosad is a relatively new insect killer that was discovered from soil in an abandoned rum distillery in 1982. Produced by fermentation, Spinosad can be used on outdoor ornamentals, lawns, vegetables and fruit trees, to control caterpillars, thrips, leafminers, borers, fruit flies, and more. Spinosad must be ingested by the insect, therefore it has little effect on sucking insects and non-target predatory insects. Spinosad is relatively fast acting. The pest insect dies within 1 to 2 days after ingesting the active ingredient. Will not persist in the environment. Sunlight and soil microbes break it down into carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. Classified as an organic substance by the USDA National Organic Standards Board. OMRI Listed for use in organic production.

Still, I've seen it kill my bees though so I only use when the moths get inside my pool cage and I see worm damage to the cuke leaves.


    Bookmark   December 1, 2011 at 7:21AM
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