The Q&A Archives: squash plant pests

Question: My squash plants get large and look very healthy but every year after I get the first 2 or 3 squashes from the plant the plant rots and withers away whats up?

Answer: It's really hard to diagnose a plant problem without actually seeing it, but what you describe could be bacterial wilt. The main symptom of this disease is severe wilting of the vines, followed by rapid death of the plant. The disease is caused by the bacterium Erwinia tracheiphila, and at first may only affect a few vines on a plant. However, as the disease progresses, more leaves wilt, and eventually the entire vine is affected. Bacterial wilt is most severe on cucumber and cantaloupe and less severe on squash, pumpkin and watermelon.

Prevention and Treatment: There is no chemical control for bacterial wilt once plants become infected. The bacteria are carried from plant to plant by striped or spotted cucumber beetles. The beetles spread the wilt bacterium by feeding on infected vines and then feeding on healthy plants.

Bacterial wilt can be reduced in your garden if the beetles are kept under control at the first sign of activity. Insecticides that control striped and spotted cucumber beetles include carbaryl and esfenvalerate. Bees pollinate many of these vegetables, so spray all insecticides in the late afternoon. Be sure to apply all chemicals according to directions on the label.

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