Cucurbit Insect and Related Pests

Authored by: Paul J. McLeod , Tahir Rashid

Handbook of Cucurbits

Print publication date:  February  2016
Online publication date:  February  2016

Print ISBN: 9781482234589
eBook ISBN: 9781482234596
Adobe ISBN:


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The array of cucurbit insects is as diverse as the types of cucurbits described elsewhere in this book. Insects affect all cucurbits and range from the smallest whiteflies, aphids, and thrips to lepidopterous caterpillars that can reach 40 mm at maturity. Insects feed directly on cucurbit foliage, stems, roots, and fruits. Plant injury can vary from insignificant to loss of fruit or plant death. Not only is direct feeding injurious to the fruit, making it unmarketable, but feeding on foliage may also weaken plants to the point of reducing or preventing harvest. Among the most significant injury, transmission of plant pathogens is often considered the greatest impact that insects have on cucurbit production. Among the most damaging insects is the cucumber beetle complex. Although these beetles can damage and occasionally kill seedling cucurbits emerging from the soil, their greatest impact is the transmission of bacterial wilt that can cause a sudden wilt and plant decline. Aphids generally have little direct impact on cucurbits but can transmit potyviruses. These plant diseases have devastated squash production in many areas of the United States and throughout the world in recent years. Despite many efforts at breeding cucurbits for disease resistance and intensive insect management, these two diseases continue to plague both the home gardener and the commercial producer of cucurbits. Attempting to reduce cucurbit diseases by managing cucumber beetles and aphids is not likely to prove successful by the home gardener. The third insect often causing significant problems is the squash bug. Many additional insects attack cucurbits but are not common and their impact is usually limited (Capinera 2001 and Mekinlay 1992).

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