As any good farmer knows, a successful harvest is dependent on knowing the enemies of your crops.
One such formidable pest is the cucumber beetle, which is a killer of cucurbits (cucumbers, pumpkin, melons, squash, zucchini, etc.), among other plants such as corn.
They not only chew on leaves, which wouldn’t be so bad but also transmit bacterial wilt, which kills.
Not only know the signs of cucumber beetle invasions but how to best naturally rid your plants of this pest, so you are ready to defend your garden when they begin the assault.
Cucumber Beetle Life Cycle
The full lifecycle of a cucumber beetle is four to eight weeks, and they can overwinter in places like compost and trash heaps and emerge in warming spring climates.
The female striped cucumber beetles can lay up to 1500 eggs, and the spotted cucumber beetle 200 to 300.
As soon as they hatch, they begin lunching on leaves of the plants, and within two weeks of starting to feed, the beetles will evolve to pupae.
Obviously, this can become a significant infestation quickly if not resolved and monitored closely in your garden.
Cucumber Beetle Damage
The signs of cucumber beetles in your garden are apparent first in the scarring to leaves and plants. Cucumbers, squashes, and melons are, by far, their favorite victims.
Still, if the cucumber beetle population is too large or their favorite crops are not available, they have been known to attack tomatoes, corns, and other crops.
As they eat, bacteria from their stomachs spread on the plants, and soon wilting and death of the plants occur.
Striped Cucumber Beetle vs. Spotted Cucumber Beetle
One of the main differences in the two types of cucumber beetles, also called corn rootworm beetles, is that striped stick to cucumbers, squash, and the like. In contrast, spotted cucumber beetles will migrate to other plants.
The striped features long black stripes on a yellow body, and the spotted feature the same coloring but with spots.
Both feed mostly on roots and stems of plants, while the spotted also is known for attacking the fruit of the plant.
How to Get Rid of Cucumber Beetles Naturally
Below are some of the best natural control methods and home remedies for cucumber beetles!
1. Diatomaceous Earth
This non-toxic powder that looks like broken glass shards when microscopically examined is a tremendous natural defense for cucumber beetles.
When spread around young plants, diatomaceous earth will kill existing beetles, and prevent the hatching of new ones.
DE compound is natural and safe for use in organic gardening. It is derived from fossilized shells of tiny aquatic organisms known as diatoms.
2. Beneficial Insects
Ladybugs are one of the best natural predators for cucumber beetles and other aphids. They consume the beetle’s eggs and immediately start diminishing the ability of these to spread.
If you purchase ladybugs, you do want to ensure you cool them in a refrigerator, and release in the evening. These two steps help slow the ladybugs and ensure they remain in your designated area of need.
Approximately 1,500 ladybugs are the recommended amount for a home garden. They can typically be purchased at many organic nurseries, for just this purpose along with other beneficial insect options for your garden.
Other helpful insects that keep away cucumber beetles include lacewings, tachinid fly, the spined soldier bug, braconid parasitoid wasp, and ground beetles.
3. Till the Ground
One early prevention for cucumber beetles is tilling up the ground in late fall. This can help eradicate any cucumber beetle larvae in the soil from overwintering or preparing for such a state.
Also, in Spring, just before planting, tilling will ensure any larvae that survived fall tilling are eradicated.
4. Sticky Traps
Yellow sticky traps are another way to rid the garden of larvae and full-sized cucumber beetles. As soon as signs of this pest are found in the garden, get this cucumber beetle trap ready to take care of the problem.
Sticky traps also provide a great monitoring tool for the health of your garden and pest control techniques.
Obviously, if they become readily loaded down with insects upon placement, you might need to formulate a plan to control better.
5. Use Transplants
Transplantation of more mature cucumber plants, versus planting seeds can help deter these beetles.
Early sprouts are much more susceptible to being permanently damaged by cucumber beetles than mature transplants. This inside planting also serves to ensure you get them in the ground after the last frost of the season.
Remember, these are delicate vegetables that won’t tolerate even the lightest of cold and should be planted after weathers consistently reach seventy degrees for the season.
Planting inside gives you more control of these idiosyncrasies also.
6. Shake Them Off
Another hand method of removing these pests is the knock and drag method.
Place cardboard around the plant that you have seen containing cucumber beetles. Once the cardboard is in place, shake the plant lightly to displace the beetles, and drag the cardboard out.
Drain the beetles into a sealable bag and dispose of them. Replace the cardboard and do this again.
You can also drop them in a bucket of soapy water made from organic insecticidal soap to kill them.
7. Plant Late
If you live in cold regions, by planting cucurbits families of vegetables later in the season, other gardens will attract these pests, leaving your next crops, hopefully undamaged.
After June 15th, it is recommended to plant, as overwintered pests should have dispersed by then.
Straw mulch applied around plants helps deter beetles. Another added benefit of this natural deterrent is that wolf spiders love straw and will nest.
When the beetles attempt to make it through the straw, the spiders will consume them, creating a line of defense for your plants.
It is recommended that a one-inch layer of this mulch is added a few inches back from the plants – never directly on top of the seedlings or plants for best results.
Yep, you read that correctly. Handpicking, which was mentioned above, is a tedious task, but with care, vacuuming these pests off of your plants is possible.
Ensure you empty the vacuum into a seal about the bag for disposal.
It is essential to not just clean what is immediately visible but check under the plants and around the root system.
10. Lime and Wood Ash
Using mixtures of wood ash and powdered hydrated lime is an excellent natural deterrent for cucumber beetles.
Add 1 ounce each of ash and lime to one gallon of water and mix.
This dissolved solution can then be mobilized in spray bottles and applied to the impacted plants.
11. Neem Oil
This oil from the neem tree in tropical areas has been proven, amongst other things, to be an excellent natural insecticide, serving as a hormone disruptor to affected pests.
The application of neem oil should be carefully followed based on the packaging.
Neem oil deters many insects, prevents fungal plant concerns, and, best of all, actually helps to stop diseases and viruses that can kill plants.
12. Hot Pepper and Garlic
Are you ready to mix up a spicy treat for those cucumber beetles?
Mix 6 cloves of crushed garlic, a tablespoon of hot pepper (dried), and a tablespoon of organic liquid soap.
Put this organic mixture in a gallon of hot water, and let it sit for at least a day. Strain and put into a spray bottle for application.
The smell will clear out the beetles with the decidedly unpleasant odor and tastes that are sure to be staunch.
13. Remove Eggs
Cucumber beetle eggs are easy to spot on your garden plants; however, removing them is crucial.
Picking or cutting the clusters from the leaves they are attached will ensure they don’t hatch and further the infestation.
Remember to look under leaves and dawn the stalk of the plant and remove everything possible.
14. Companion Planting
Companion planting is another way of controlling cucumber beetles organically.
Corn and broccoli planted interspersed or in between rows of cucumbers have been shown to discourage this pest.
Additional plants that repel cucumber beetles or attract their enemies include clover, nasturtium, marigold, tansy, buckwheat, and radishes.
15. Row Covers
The first line of defense is cones, floating row covers, and other barriers to these pests.
These devices act as mini-greenhouses, allowing the benefits of soil, light, and water to seep into the plants while keeping pests at bay.
Ensure the edges are covered with dirt to prevent these crafty critters from gaining access to the plants inside. However, once flowers begin to appear, you need to remove these covers for the best cross-pollination results.
16. Trap Crops
This type of planting is precisely how it sounds, planting for the sake of actually attracting garden pests. By drawing cucumber beetles to these plants, your principal crops are spared.
A good trap crop option to use is blue hubbard squash, which attracts squash bugs and several varieties of cucumber pests.
A perimeter of it around your main crops can help isolate them from the beetles that wish to feed upon them.
17. Crop Rotation
No matter how much prep work, tilling, and the like you do, some cucumber beetles larvae may hatch.
One of the best ideas for prevention is the rotation of where you plant cucumbers, squash, and other cucurbits in the coming season.
Because cucumber beetles overwinter in the soil, rotating crops will prevent larvae damage since they won’t readily access these new plants when hatched.
18. Kaolin Clay
Mixing 3 cups of Surround WP Kaolin Clay to one gallon of water provides a sprayable solution.
This substance forms a white barrier surface on your plants that the cucumber beetles do not like, preventing them from feeding and laying their eggs.
Kaolin clay is safe to use on plants in your garden, but as always, remember to cleanse your produce thoroughly before eating.
This spray works on the nervous system of pests, and immobilizes them and causes them to remain on plants looking active when they actually cannot move.
This multi-purpose natural deterrent is heavy-lifting for many of your garden variety. It thus may be used for entire gardens versus just cucurbit patches.
This compound is a derivative of the neem tree that serves to deter the eating of vegetation by insects and acts as a repellent. This can be sprayed or applied directly into the soil.
Once absorbed, pests will digest and slowly die off. This product also has properties that inhibit future hatching of eggs, and best of all leaves no residues on the plants in your garden.
Molt-X can be purchased at numerous places online or natural gardening stores.
21. Beauveria bassiana
This is an insect fungus that infects the pest’s outer shell and, upon absorption, kills them.
It is used on many beetles and soft-bodied inhabitants of your garden and will appear whitish at first when applied and sticks to the insect’s bodies.
This is generally used after a significant infiltration of the garden has occurred as it works on mature pests. The full effect of this product will be up to fourteen days.
BioCeres WP beauveria bassiana can be purchased at several vital retailers for use alone or with other processes for ideal results.
Cucumber beetles may look unassuming with their yellow and black bodies, but do not be fooled. These little pests like to munch on stems, roots, and the fruit of cucumber, squash, melons, and other cucurbits in your garden.
Even if those are not crops you have in your garden, remember the spotted cucumber beetle is not picky.
As soon as signs of stem and root damage appear, bacterial wilt from the insects is sure to follow. Be prepared and have a plan to naturally help defend and eradicate to the best of your ability these pests.
There will be no time to waste, and you must be decisive while still protecting yourself and the rest of the garden you have planted for harvest.
Hopefully, this fantastic list of natural deterrents to employ in your garden will show rewards in your battle against cucumber beetles.