Natural Methods to Control Cucumber Beetles
Common in many domestic gardens, cucumber beetles are challenging to control. Plants belonging to the cucurbit family, like cucumbers, are particularly vulnerable to repeated beetle attacks. Adult cucumber beetle insects feed intensively on young plants. Their larvae seep deep into the soil bed, destroying the young roots. Adult beetles are responsible for transmitting many diseases like bacterial wilt and squash mosaic virus across the entire garden bed.
Natural beetle removal methods, often called organic pest management, are recommended for comprehensively eradicating beetle populations from your garden. Here are several effective natural methods for fighting cucumber beetle garden problems:
This is one of the safest and most common pest management techniques. Beetles tend to migrate from one plant to another, i.e. through the soil bed and the surrounding leaves. All cucurbit (gourd) family plants, like pumpkins and melons, should be shifted across the garden bed repeatedly. Periodic shifting of cucurbits ensures that beetles are unable to sustain a colony in the garden. Generally, the rotation of plants is recommended for a minimum of 3 times per year.
Cucumber beetles lay a large number of eggs near the stem of the plants. Mulching the stems ensures that the larvae aren't able to burrow into the soil. Beetle larvae cannot survive for long in organic mulch due to the high moisture content. Mulching also acts like a natural weed barrier. Lesser weeds around the plants means decreased feeding and breeding spots for the cucumber beetle. You can also use special, weed-suppressing mulches like geo-textile weed mulch, straw mulch and plastic or hay mulch.
Trap Crops & Trap Baits
Trap crops are special plants that release chemicals called kairomones that attract beetles, sending them into a feeding frenzy. Trap baits lined with trap crops, ensure large populations of beetles are killed in a very short period. This is particularly effective for eliminating adult beetles. Trap baits can be prepared from substances besides trap crops that attract Cucumber beetles. The most common bait powders are buffalo and root gourd powder. Sometimes trap crops are planted in the garden bed itself. When the adult cucumber beetles start feeding on the crop, they are sprayed with organic pesticides.
Beetles tend to be inactive during winters, often creating the illusion that the cold temperature has killed them. During winters, plant residue is a breeding ground for dormant beetle larvae. As a result, beetle populations tend to explode after the winter season. Repeated tillage of the soil and cleaning of any foliage on the garden bed is necessary to arrest a spurt in seasonal beetle population.
Floating Row Covers
Row covers are an effective barrier for protecting young seedlings from beetle attacks. They can be easily obtained from garden supply stores. The cover can be removed once the plants have gained a firm footing in the garden soil and begin to show vegetative leaves. Slightly mature plants have greater immunity against diseases transmitted by cucumber beetles. If you have a chronic beetle problem, then row covers can be used among mature plants, too. Here, the covers are occasionally removed, i.e., during the flowering season and for mechanical cultivation, apart from a few hours in the daytime, every day.
Some high-end pest management suppliers provide a slightly expensive, but effective remedy in the form of vacuum-based beetle control. They rent out hand-held vacuuming equipment that can be used for sucking-away cucumber beetles from your garden.