Question about cantaloupe/squash problem

bookworm226(7)June 15, 2008

I was wondering if anyone can help me discover what is happening to my cantaloupe, zucchini, and squash plants this year. I had this same problem last year but I thought that is was caused by varying amounts of water due to the drought here. But when the problem came up again this year, I started scratching my head!

I planted my cantaloupe plants out about a month ago. They have grown great and are putting on all kinds of runners and blooms. Suddenly one of the plants entirely wilted. I have a thin layer of mulch around them and when I pulled this back I looked at the stem and noticed that it was really woody in texture and very pliable. Nothing had eaten it to my knowledge and it didn't really look like bugs or worms had gotten to it. So far, 2 plants out of 50 have done that. It really bothers me because I never know when another one will go. My yellow crookneck squash and my zucchini have also had this problem. My zucchini was producing perfectly until I went out one morning and saw half of them wilted.

I hope someone can help me out with this problem. Any suggestions about what causes it and what I can do about it? Thanks so much

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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

I'd bet on squash vine borers (Melittia cucurbitae). They are very common, and the damage they do is often hard to recognize until the infestation gets serious. The pictures on the web of the damage they do are usually extreme cases. More commonly, the results are exactly as you describe above.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2008 at 2:04PM
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april_h_o(Z6 Nashville)

Yeah, I second Brandon's comment. Check for small holes in the stem near the base of the wilted stem, with bits of what looks like sawdust coming out of the hole. That is the interior plant material which the little villains have eaten and pooped out.

We've had a bit of success splitting the stem, digging the borers out, and then burying the damanged portion of the stem in a mound of soil. This keeps the whole thing from dying, and they will usually bounce back, but often you'll get multiple infestations. It depends on where you are, I guess, but Chip and I have basically given up on any members of the cucurbit family, with the except of watermelons (which they don't seem to like as much as squash and cucumber).

    Bookmark   June 24, 2008 at 4:42PM
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