Controls for Stink Bugs & Cucumber Beetles

anney(Georgia 8)March 28, 2007

I had a great deal of trouble in this area last year with stink bugs on my tomatoes and melons, and cucumber beetles on my melons, so I'm getting ready for the onslaught in a couple of months. I thought I'd post this information in case it's useful for anybody else.

Stink Bugs This year I've ordered ornamental millet to plant as a trap crop for stink bugs. I killed HUNDREDS of them that were ruining my tomatoes and melons last summer. Apparently they love millet seeds, and if it's planted before the tomatoes and melons are set out, it's pretty effective at attracting these pests and keeping the melons and tomatoes relatively stinkbug-free. Birds love the millet seeds and will eat the stink bugs that cluster on the seed heads as well as the seeds.

Cucumber beetles Last year, I found that clove oil or tayuya powder mixed with Sevin and placed in cups on my melon trellis will do cucumber beetles in. They're wildly attracted to tayuya (a ground up root) or clove oil and will eat, drink, or drown in the thick soup in the cup (about an inch deep) that's been poisoned with Sevin. It's a good organic/chemical way to control them without spraying your plants.

I recently found information about squash and pumpkins that were used as trap crops for cucumber beetles if anybody's interested in trying it. The article also mentions that this method works to some degree on "squash bugs", which is another name for a kind of southern stinkbug.

From the Texas Department of Agriculture:

Trap Crops

Can reduce pesticide use in vegetable crops...

If given a choice, cucurbit pests like squash bugs and striped and spotted cucumber beetles prefer squash and pumpkins to watermelons, cantaloupes, cucumbers, and gourdsin that order.

With that in mind, Sam Pair, research entomologist for USDA's Agricultural Research Service in Lane, Okla., has been experimenting with the use of squash and pumpkins as "trap crops" to reduce the use of pesticides.

Speaking to a room full of vegetable and melon producers at the recent Central Texas Vegetable Growers Conference in Comanche County, Pair explained the concept of using the host preference as a management tool for attracting and concentrating the insects.

Trap crops offer early season control, which is advantageous in that: (1) pests are at their lowest population levels; (2) pests are actively seeking food plants and mates; and (3) producers can exercise an offensive rather than a defensive strategy.

"Early season suppression helps prevent late season build up. The idea is to plant border rows of trap crops on the edges of the field of your primary crop and trap the insects there early, where you don't have to spray the entire field. The trap crop needs to be in the field one week before the primary crop is planted," he said.

According to Pair, both the striped cucumber beetle (Mexican corn rootworm) and the spotted cucumber beetle (corn rootworm), known to transmit bacterial wilt, generally aggregate at field margins, mostly the southern edge. They typically migrate to the first cucurbit they see. Thus, the larger, visual plant is their cue.

"It worked very well in trials," Pair reported. "We were able to attract nearly 40 percent of the cucumber beetles to a trap plant out of the field. Even in squash, using squash in squash, we were able to lure 32 percentÂusing the larger trap plants is the trickÂand in watermelon, it was even better, 65 percent.

"We use up to three squash plants in seedlingsÂthe beetles prefer the squash themselves and larger plants," the USDA-ARS entomologist continued. "We applied Furadan to the squash plant and recently, Admire. Furadan offers about two weeks' protection. Admire lasts a lot longer. The more trap density the better. Four rows is better than two rows. These are good techniques on cucumber beetles. The opportunity is there to do something early. "

Pair said the percentages of squash bugs attracted to the trap plants were even more impressiveÂ95.9 percent for cantaloupe; 32 percent for squash; and 91 percent for watermelon.

"The squash bug is a serious pest of watermelon in the Cross Timbers region. Adults are fairly hard to control. They destroy the plant's vascular system, causing a general decline of the vine and blemishes, delayed fruit set, higher water requirements, and a shorter leaf life spanÂespecially the crownÂmaking it easier for aphids to invade," he said. "We believe it also has some role in the presence of yellow vine decline, but we're not sure. It may be as a stress factor."

Pair said a lot of squash varieties will work. He had good luck with Peto 391, a summer bush-type squash, with "staying power" and 35-40 days of fruit, if you keep it picked.

"The cucumber beetle and particularly the squash bug likes the big bush. The squash bug stays and doesn't disperse like the cucumber beetle. The key is to monitor the squash crop. If you have large wide fields, it is a benefit to have squash across the end. Again, get the trap crop in early, use systemic approved insecticides, and keep it picked. You might even be able to find a market for the squash," he suggested.

Pair said there is some evidence that squash bug management may reduce incidence of yellow vine in melons.

"When we have encountered it, yellow vine decline appeared in the trap crop first. The vector sees it first, so the squash is more susceptible. In fact, the entire squash crop succumbed while only 1- 5 percent of the primary crop is affected," said Pair.

In this instance, Pair said he allowed a 12-foot row between the trap crop and the melon crop. He also followed the same protocol of fertility and water for the trap crop as if it were the primary crop.

"We found that yellow vine decline is worse in black plastic than any other plastic. You tend to get the earliest influx of cucumber beetles on yellow plastic, so you might want to consider using the yellow with the trap crop to enhance attractiveness," he suggested. "Also, there may be some reduction using red plastic mulch."

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suze9(z8b Bastrop Co., TX)

Anney, great post. Lots of useful information.

I have a question for you about the millet. Where did you find the tip? Reason I ask is because I noted it a couple of years ago, and I've never seen anyone suggest it besides myself. It would be great to read other viewpoints and results with using it as a trap crop.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2007 at 6:09PM
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anney(Georgia 8)

Morning, Suze,

It probably was your information about using millet as a trap crop that I read here, but millet's use as an attractant for stink bugs is also mentioned on the internet in several articles. Here's a quote from one article about protecting pecan crops:

Trap crops were tested in GA and TX for stink bug control. Millet and sesbania were attractive to stink bugs, shield bugs, leaffootted bugs and green lynx spiders (an important predator of the kernel feeding hemipterans). Pecan growers are currently using cowpeas and soybeans as trap crops based on earlier research. Link below.

Sesbania is a legume, I think.

I guess the trick for trap crops is to get them in the ground several feet away (I'm planning on 12 feet) before you plant the crop you want to be pest-free, since stink bugs tend to stay put on the first stand of attractive plants they find.

But not cucumber beetles. Those pests fly all over the place!

    Bookmark   March 30, 2007 at 7:34AM
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