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12 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Pickleworms

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12 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Pickleworms

Ever notice those little off-white, green, or yellow worms chomping away at your cucumber plants? Those are likely pickleworms, and they can do some serious damage if left unchecked.

As an organic gardener, you don’t want to resort to harsh chemicals to get rid of these pests. The good news is that there are several natural ways you can tackle pickleworms and save your precious crops.

What are Pickleworms?

They are the larvae of a moth. Pickleworms feed primarily on plants in the cucurbit family, like cucumbers, summer squash, pumpkins, and gourds. They also go after cantaloupes and melons.

They hatch from eggs laid on host plants. These hungry caterpillars enjoy munching leaves, flower buds, and other plant parts [1].

One of the first signs of pickle worms you’ll notice are holes chewed into blossoms, vines, and young fruits. You may also see entry holes filled with frass (caterpillar poop).

How to Get Rid of Pickleworms Naturally

Once you’ve spotted these destructive pests, take action fast to limit damage. Below are some home remedies and natural control methods that you can employ.

With diligent monitoring and natural control methods, you can win the battle against cucumber worms and enjoy a bountiful harvest.

1. Spinosad

Spinosad is an organic insecticide that can kill pickleworms. You can find spinosad products, like Monterey, in many garden centers.

Mix it with water according to the product instructions. Spray it directly on the pickleworms and the foliage they’re eating.

2. Neem Oil

Neem oil acts as an insect repellent and growth inhibitor.

Therefore, you can use it to make a homemade pickleworm spray. Just mix one tablespoon of pure, cold-pressed neem oil with a teaspoon of mild liquid soap and a quart of warm water.

Next, spray the solution directly on the pickleworm caterpillars. The oil will kill them and deter the moths from laying more eggs.

3. Diatomaceous Earth 

Apply diatomaceous earth by sprinkling it on cucumber caterpillars. This organic pesticide dehydrates and kills pickleworms and any other soft-bodied insect pests that come into contact with it.

Apply this home remedy as directed, especially after rain.

4. Practice Crop Rotation

Don’t plant cucurbits in the same spot year after year. Pickleworm moths prefer to lay eggs on familiar plants, so rotate with something else.

5. Pick Them Off

Inspect your plants carefully for signs of pickleworm damage, like holes and frass (insect excrement). If you spot any worms, caterpillars, or egg casings, pick them off immediately.

Next, crush the eggs and caterpillars. You can also drop them into a container of soapy water to kill them.

Regular monitoring and handpicking can be very effective at controlling light-to-moderate pickleworm infestations in an eco-friendly way.

6. Row Covers

Row covers are a simple way to physically exclude pickleworm moths and prevent them from laying eggs on your cucumbers and other plants.

Made from lightweight materials, row covers let in light and water while keeping pests out. This is an excellent organic, non-toxic solution for controlling pickleworms.

7. Clean Up Garden

Go through your garden and clear out any dead or dying plant matter, debris, and weeds around the base of your pickleworm-prone plants.

Pull weeds, prune away dead or dying leaves and stems, rake up dropped foliage under plants, and dispose of the material. Compost what you can, and throw the rest in the trash.

A clean garden is less appealing to pests like pickleworm moths. It also makes it easier to spot larvae, eggs, or damage.

Besides, regular garden maintenance also promotes good air circulation and healthy plant growth. This makes your vegetables less susceptible to pests and diseases.

8. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)

Bt, or Bacillus thuringiensis, can also help control worms in cucumbers and related crops.

It produces proteins that are toxic to certain insects, including pickle worms and melon worms. The product comes in forms that you mix with water and spray on your plants.

9. Plant Early

By getting your cucumbers and other target crops in the ground early, you give the plants a head start on growth before the pickleworm moths emerge and lay eggs.

The larvae hatch from these eggs and feed on developing fruits, so faster-growing vines will yield mature cucumbers (or other crops) before the pickleworms can do much damage.

10. Fruit Bagging

To protect your cucumbers and melons from pickleworm damage organically, you can also try fruit bagging. This simple technique involves covering the developing fruit with a breathable bag, like organza or mesh.

As the fruit develops, monitor it regularly. Next, carefully place the bag over the fruit and secure the opening around the stem with a twist tie or string.

The bag will protect the fruit from pickleworm moths laying eggs as well as the young larvae feeding on the fruit.

11. Natural Predators

This is one of the best ways to control pickleworm populations in an eco-friendly manner.

Some birds and predatory beetles feed on pickleworm caterpillars and eggs. Ladybugs and some parasitic wasps also feed on worms in squash fruit, cucumbers, and other crops.

Therefore, by releasing or encouraging these natural enemies in your garden, you can significantly reduce pickleworm damage. You can also plant flowers that attract beneficial insects and avoid pesticides that kill them.

12. Remove Infested Fruits

To remove infested fruits from your garden, you’ll need to inspect the pickleworm’s favorite snacks regularly.

Therefore, check cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, and melons daily. Look for small entry holes in the fruit, often accompanied by frass (insect larvae excrement).

Remove any damaged or infested fruits immediately and dispose of them in sealed bags or containers. Do not compost them, as this can spread the critters to other areas.

Takeaway

So there you have it—some easy and natural solutions to keep those pesky pickleworms out of your garden.

Give a few of these environmentally friendly treatments and methods a try and let us know which one worked best for you. And remember, the key is to start early by practicing prevention.

Picture via cohutt.com

Sasha Brown

Sasha Brown is a blogger and lover of all things natural.

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