The Midwest has all types of good family values within the home. Little do many people know, however, is that all kinds of pests might also be part of the family, unbeknownst to the family members. It is not uncommon to find creatures lurking around every corner of the home (nor is it uncommon to see men armed with backpack pest control sprays on a mission to rid their homes of these pests). Getting to know the creatures that are sharing your home will definitely help you win the war against pest invasion. The Cucurbitaceae family is one of the plant families that are largely cultivated throughout the world. This family includes watermelon, cantaloupe, casaba, honeydew, muskmelon, cucumber, summer squash, winter squash pumpkins and much more. Throughout the Midwest, a number of insects have a detrimental effect on the growth of these crops.
Common Midwest Pests and Their Habits
- Cucumber beetles, including the spotted and striped varieties, are common in Missouri. While the striped variety feeds predominantly on cucurbits, the spotted cucumber beetle has other hosts on which it feeds. Once they become adults, they enter the fields and begin attacking the seedlings by laying eggs that become root-feeding larvae and eventually grow into beetles. There are usually three generations per season. They also carry a number of diseases that are detrimental to the crops.
- Squash bugs feed on the sap from stems and leaves, thus causing the plants to wilt and decay. Squash bugs prefer pumpkins, watermelons and squash, and even though they only produce one generation in a year, the entire life cycle occurs during the season.
- The squash vine borer prefers summer squash, pumpkins and gourds, leaving cucumbers and melons free from attack. These insects bore into the stems of the plants near the crown, cutting them off from water and nutrients and causing them to wilt and die.
Treatments for Common Midwest Pests
In addition to the pests that attack the cucumber family, the Midwest has similar problems with cockroaches as other areas. Being able to get rid of cockroaches is an ongoing problem in most areas of the world, with low-income areas being more susceptible to cockroach infestation. Maintenance of a clean area and routine pest control will keep the problem under control. For the plant predators, there are various ways to eliminate infestation. Hubbard squash is highly susceptible to the squash vine borer, but it can be planted so as to lessen the pressure that the squash vine borer can place on the crop. In small gardens, you can control the problem by removing the moths and eggs. You can use the same insecticide for this insect that you use for the cucumber beetle and squash bug, but you will want to make sure you read the directions before you use the product. Because the cucumber beetle has few natural enemies, you cannot rely on biological control to eliminate or prevent infestation. You can use row covers in the beginning of the season, but you will need to remove these once flowering begins in order to allow pollination. The most effective means of control is to choose plant varieties that produce less cucurbitacin, which limits the amount of damage the beetles do to the plants. You can also use row covers to control squash bugs but again, you will need to remove this once the plants begin to flower. If you have a small garden, you can pick them off by hand or you can use an insecticide labeled effective for squash bugs.