Enemies of the Garden: Squash Vine Borer and Cucumber Beetle

I’ve been riding a gardening high since everything seemed to be going so well. The summer squash has been putting out squash prolifically and everyday there have been more cucumbers to pick. Things are changing. Now there are some pesky pests who are honing in on my vegetables. The squash vine borer and the cucumber beetle are the villains.

These two garden pests have mercilessly dined upon my beloved vines. The squash vine borer is an ugly little thing in its larval state, which is where it does the damage. I was examining a cucumber beetle that had landed on the squash leaf and decided to knock him away. When I knocked the beetle off a large leaf of my squash plant came off too. That’s when I found the rear end of this squash vine borer mooning me. As if he hadn’t offended me already by damaging my squash plants.

There’s not much that can be done now. I haven’t used any pesticides this year which may have allowed these guys to find my plants. All I can do is manage the situation. I’ll attempt to remove the borer then bury the squash vine under more dirt. This will allow the squash vine to root in more places and will lessen any possible die back from borer damage and girdling.

The cucumber beetle wouldn’t have been so bad if it weren’t for the bacteria it carries. I noticed about a week ago that the cucumber leaves seemed to be wilting in the heat of the day. Since it was in the mid 90’s and the plants needed watered I didn’t think too much of the wilt at the time but it turns out I should have. The cucumber beetle carries with it a bacteria that causes bacterial wilt. It transmits the bacteria to the plant either through its mouth or through its excrement. In the first picture below the damage doesn’t look bad until you look a little closer.


Unfortunately there is no cure. My vines have a terminal illness.

Here’s the culprit who brought the devastation to my cucumber vine. By all appearances he looks like a friendly little beetle. Some of his relatives even have stripes. The University of Kentucky Department of Entomology has some information on preventing cucumber beetles from damaging your crop, but for my vines it’s too late.



I’ll try to start over with some new vines since I have plenty of seed. Hopefully they will do well but for now I’ll harvest everything I can until the vines die off.

10 thoughts on “Enemies of the Garden: Squash Vine Borer and Cucumber Beetle

  1. tina

    That’s a bummer and I hate those squash vine borers too! Ugly ugly! I picked more than one out of a vine last year. Sometimes you can tape the vine together and it will hang on. Good luck! The good news is you can still plant cukes and squash-the season is still young.

  2. Daphne

    Oh I so hate those pests. The vine borer usually kills all my squash and my daughter always wants pumpkins. I saw the first borer yesterday and now I’ve covered up my pumpkins with a row cover. It will eventually sneak out underneath and I might have to hand pollinate, but maybe we will get some. I’m just planning on reseeding zucchini and cucumbers soon. I know they won’t last. I’ll keep the new ones under row covers for a while until they get big.

  3. Lola

    Squash borers got my squash too Dave. The plants were gone before I realized what was going on. No squash at all–didn’t even bloom after first bloom. I had 3 different kind. I think maybe it happened when I was gone for a week. First time in about 10 yrs. I’ve been anywhere & this happens. Will have to figure out something else next yr. as I plant in whiskey barrels with potting soil. Will see.
    Sorry you lost yours. Heart breaking after all that work.

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