Organic Management of Cucumber Beetles in Cucurbits

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2001: $134,038.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2005
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $41,900.00
Region: Southern
State: Kentucky
Principal Investigator:
John Sedlacek
Kentucky State University
Gary Cline
Kentucky State University

Annual Reports


  • Fruits: melons


  • Pest Management: biological control, botanical pesticides, cultural control, disease vectors, field monitoring/scouting, integrated pest management, mulches - killed, mulching - plastic, trap crops, traps


    Organic methods for managing cucumber beetles (Acalymma vittatum Fab. and Diabrotica undecimpunctata Barber) were examined in the production of watermelon [Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.)] and muskmelon (Cucumis melo L.) using sticky traps to monitor beetle populations. Organic methods included the use of Al-coated plastic mulch, companion plants, pyrethrin insecticide, and row covers. In 2002, populations of striped and total (striped + spotted ) cucumber beetles were significantly (P < 0.05) reduced by combined use of three companion plants [radish (Raphanus sativus L.), tansy (Tanacetum vulgare L.), and nasturtium (Tropaeolum spp. L.) thought to repel cucmber beetles or by combined use of plants (buckwheat [Fagopyrum esculentum Moench], cowpeas [Vigna unguiculata (L.)], and sweetclover [Melilotus officinalis (L.)] known to attract beneficial insects. The companion plant treatment consisted of the combined use of radish and buckwheat in 2003 and 2004. In 2003, use of Al-plastic and companion plants, significantly (P < 0.05) increased muskmelon yields and vine cover, while significantly (P < 0.05) reducing populations of striped, spotted and total cucumber beetles. Use of pyrethrin insecticide reduced beetle populations to a lesser extent than companion plants and did not affect muskmelon yields or vine cover. In 2004, effects of companion plant and Al-plastic treatments on muskmelon yields and vine cover were also significant (P < 0.05) and similar to those in 2003. However, these treatments only affected early season beetle populations. Yield increases in Al-plastic and companion plant treatments appeared additive when they were combined in a single treatment. Use of row covers significantly (P < 0.05) increased muskmelon yields and vine cover in 2003 and 2004 but did not affect beetle populations after row cover removal. It was concluded that use of companion plants and Al-plastic mulch increased muskmelon yields and vine cover while reducing populations of cucumber beetles. Use of row covers also increased muskmelon yields and vine cover, but it was unclear how row covers affected muskmelon production or if row cover effects were related to cucumber beetles.

    Project objectives:

    1. Compare organic methods for managing cucumber beetles in watermelon, including use of reflective mulches, beneficial insects, trap crops, cover crops, and companion plants.

    2. Develop an organic system for managing cucumber beetles with muskmelon including combinations of management methods in a systems-oriented approach.

    3. Determine direct and systemic toxic effects of pawpaw extracts on striped cucumber beetles.

    4. Determine insecticidal effects of pawpaw extract on cucumber beetles in muskmelon.

    To accomplish objectives 1 and 2, field experiments were conducted during the growing season, whereas laboratory experiments were performed during the off-season to address objective 3. There was insufficient time to address objective 4.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.