Worms in Pumpkins - Knowledgebase Question

Thomasville, NC
Question by VTNAVWT052C
June 20, 2000
Thank you for your response to my earlier question concerning vine borers, pumpkins, and the protection of Bluebirds. Your service is very much appreciated. I need to also know if there are other worms that attack pumpkins. The pumpkin patch that was wiped out last year appeared to have been shot with BB's - many holes appeared in each pumpkin, and each was oozing moisture from the pellet-sized holes. When I broke open the pumpkins I discovered worms. It appeared the worms had entered the pumpkins themselves from the outside, as opposed to an internal route through the vine. As a matter of fact when I cut the pumpkins from their vines, I inspected the vine where it was cut from the and there appeared to be no holes or route of entry from the vine. The entrance appeared to be only from the skin of the fruit itself.

Are there worms that would enter from the ground directly into the fruit? Each worm measured approximately one-half inch each in size. It was a beige worm with a dark head, sort of like a small maggot.

One other clue I can provide is that my garden is a raised bed garden. The pumpkin vines flow freely outside the stone and the pumpkins themselves were lying on boards off of the grass to prevent rot. I have this year three varieties of pumpkin growing, including Burpee Jack-o'-Lantern, and Big Max. This year I plan to whip that worm, within the safety of the Bluebirds. Another nesting pair has taken a box on the property and has built a nest. I expect I will have Bluebirds all summer long so I will not be using any pesticides.

Thanks for helping me whip this worm, and grow great pumpkins. My vines are growing long now and it will not be long before the blooms start. We want to get an early jump on the rascal.

Thanks for your help!

Answer from NGA
June 20, 2000


It's possible you are dealing with pickleworms, though they are more common on cucumbers and summer squash. The adult overwinters in Florida and migrates north in spring, laying eggs on the developing cucurbit blossoms in early June. The eggs hatch in a few days and the larvae feed for two weeks first on the blossom, then burrow into the young fruit. Pickleworms reduce the yield of crops and make fruits inedible.

Here's a web site with more detailed information about the pest.

Because the pickleworm is the larvae of a moth, it can be managed using sprays of B.t., a biological control for caterpillars. To control an infestation, spray Bt in the early evening on susceptible plants, starting in June and continuing weekly. Row covers can prevent some early damage but have to be removed once flowers open. Begin the weekly spraying once you remove the row covers. Another possible control is predatory nematodes. For more information about these biological controls, visit the web site of Peaceful Valley Farm Supply, www.groworganic.com

(Here's the page with more info about the nematodes.)

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