Pickle worm - Knowledgebase Question

columbia, So
Question by kennethfers
March 3, 2011
I had great success growing cantaloupes last year but had numerous pickle worms bore into my cantaloupes and ruin by crop. I understand that they are from a moth that lays its eggs in the soil around my garden plants, should I spray the ground early on? I tried spraying my plants numerous times throughout the year but lost 98% of my crop due to pickle worms.Any suggestions?

Answer from NGA
March 3, 2011


Despite its name, the pickleworm?s favorite meal is squash, both winter and summer types. These pinkish or green caterpillars feed on the blossoms, stems, and developing fruits of squash, cucumbers, cantaloupe and some pumpkins.

You have a real battle on your hands because pickleworms overwinter in tropical zones and as adult moths they migrate northward in early summer to lay their eggs on susceptible plants. Pickleworm larvae feed on flowers and tunnel into young fruits before pupating. With two to four generations per year, pickleworms are year-round pests in the southernmost part of the U.S.

About the only way to control these pests is to place a barrier between your plants and the flying moths to keep the moths from laying eggs on your plants. You can accomplish this by using floating row covers over your susceptible plants. I just drive stakes into the ground along the rows of plants and drape Reemay or other floating row covers over the stakes. Be sure to secure the ends all around the bed. leave the covers in place until the vines begin to flower then remove the covers so beneficial insects can pollinate the open flowers. With any luck the plants will flower after the moths have moved on to other gardens. Or you can leave the row covers on the plants and hand pollinate the flowers (use a small paintbrush to transfer pollen from one open flower to the next). If you keep the row covers on your plants the whole season you won't have pickleworm damage. Best wishes with your garden!

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