Sunday, July 21, 2013

Attack of the Pickleworms

My garden has been attacked by pickleworms before, so this is nothing new, but can I just say that I am not happy to see them? Luckily, so far they are not in the zucchini or melons, but they like those, too.

If your cucumbers have been attacked, what you'll see on the outside of the cucumber is likely to look a lot like this:
Evidence of pickleworms: Pale green frass and little round holes.   PHOTO/
If you slice into the cuke carefully, you may find the whole caterpillar. Of course, you might also find just half the caterpillar, which is a little disconcerting.

Actual pickleworm, tucked neatly into a cave of his/her own making. 

Since I don't like to use much in the way of pesticides in my garden, my options for controlling the problem are limited. One year, I thought I'd try covering the plants at night, then uncovering them in the morning. Since the worms are the babies of a night flying moth, covering them at night would keep the moths away from my plants.

It turns out that I don't love cucumbers enough to go to all that work - I would forget to cover them at night, and sometimes, when I'd managed that, I'd forget to uncover them in the day, which meant the new flowers didn't get pollinated.

If the rain would hold off for a few days, I'd spray the plants with Bt for caterpillars, which is supposed to not harm any other kind of insect, but the weather-radar this afternoon is showing little storms all over the Southeast, several of which are pretty nearby, and one of which is pouring water all over my yard right now.

The real trick would have been to get the cucumbers planted earlier, so my harvest-window would be longer, but the cool wet spring delayed planting, and my garden was plagued by crows as the seedlings began to show above ground. The crows kept pulling them up, and I kept replanting them. It may be a miracle that we have any fresh-garden cucumbers at all!

The good news, sort of, is that the onslaught of pickleworms coincides with some other cucumber-related problems. Even if I could keep back the pickleworms, there's still downy mildew, and we have some cucumber beetles, too, eating the leaf tissue while leaving behind a netted lace of the leaves' veins.

Sometimes, the best thing is to prepare to say "goodbye" to the cucumbers. While I wait for the other problems get worse, I will be trimming away the wormy spots, to get as much good cucumber as possible for as many more cucumber salads as I can.

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