Pumpkin Pests – Halloween’s Tiniest Terrors
Friday, October 31, 2014
Author: Frank Rittemann
Halloween is filled with ghosts and goblins, witches and wizards, vampires and monsters - but the scariest part of Halloween just might be its tinniest terrors. These itty bitty destructive insects crawl inside pumpkins – sucking the sap, transmitting disease, and preventing them from growing into the festive orange pumpkins we love.
Here is a list of top pumpkin pests:
These creepy crawlies lurk in the mulch, sucking the sap from pumpkin plants. Feeding on the youngest pumpkins in the patch, squash bugs cause the vines to wilt, the leaves to turn brown, and the plants to die.
Squash bugs also carry bacteria that lead to yellow vine decline. As the name says, yellow vine decline causes the pumpkin vines to turn yellow and sickly, and the plant to collapse before the pumpkin is able to grow. Sadly, once the plant is infected, it cannot be rescued.
Striped & Spotted Cucumber Beetle
Cucumber beetles are the most common enemy to vine crops (like the pumpkin). There are two different types – striped and spotted. This deadly duo of beetles attacks pumpkins and all other gourds, and are characterized by black spots or stripes on their yellow bodies.
Cucumber beetles emerge out of orange eggs. The grubs (the young beetles) feed on the roots of the pumpkin plants. As they get bigger and greedier, they feed on the pumpkin itself.
The beetles are also notorious for transmitting plant diseases. Both the striped and the spotted cucumber beetle carry deadly bacteria wilt within their digestive tracts. These evil twins deliver bacteria wilt to unsuspecting pumpkins, causing blockage of their water transport system. The disease quickly spreads through the entire plant causing it to shrivel and die.
Just like yellow vine decline, once a pumpkin is infected, there is no way of stopping the spread of disease. Farmers need to keep beetle populations as low as possible when growing their crop.
Aphids are tiny green insects that attack pumpkins (as well as many other plants). They suck the sap out of young healthy pumpkins, stunting growth. As they travel from plant to plant, aphids leave behind a trail of sticky secretion which cause the pumpkins to mold and rot. Like the other pumpkin pests, aphids carry diseases that weaken and eventually kill crops. Seed treatment protects seedlings through the early stages of growth, and can help save the lives of your pumpkins.
The squash vine borer is a pesky moth with bright orange scales covering its hind legs. An infestation of these little guys will put an end to your pumpkin growing season. The vine borers are the masters of the stealth attack. Once they emerge from their eggs, the larvae (known as the grubs) bore into the pumpkin vines near the base, and suck on the juices. The vine will shrivel and die, taking the pumpkin with it. You have to be proactive with the vine borer, because once you notice damage is done, it’s too late.
Wireworms are small slimy orange worm-looking creatures. They are the larvae of click beetles and live underground for years (some wireworms can live up to six years!). These persistent pests wiggle and wriggle through the soil, destroying seeds and stunting development of helpless seedlings.
Six Spotted Leafhopper
The six spotted leafhopper is a greenish yellow bug with six black spots. It carries diseases from plant to plant, and is responsible for the transmission of the aster yellow virus. Aster yellow is a plant disease that ruins pumpkins - causing their leaves to yellow and the pumpkins to grow lopsided.
The good news is these pest are preventable. If you know about them, prepare for them, and take the right steps to treat for them, your pumpkins can live long and happy lives.
For more tips to tackle these tiny terrors – click here – and protect your pumpkins!