Pickleworm and the pickleworm moth. These guys have found my garden. Diaphania nitidalis, also known as Pickleworm, can be a serious pest in the garden. They eat the flower blossoms of the squash plant, preventing them from producing. The larvae burrow into the squash causing damage. You'll notice a tiny pinhole with goop oozing out of the squash which is a good indication that there is a small pickleworm inside. Once the picklworm takes out the blossoms and young fruits, they will go after the vine itself. This is more common in summer squash varieties then it is varieties of winter squash, more specifically the C moschata family which are more resistant. The moth is active at night which means you likely won't see them and their antics...little buggers! The eggs are so small they are the size of a pinhead, making it hard to know they are there! These little devils damage not only squash, but melons, and cucumbers as well. In warmer zones such as FL, the moth can be an issue near year-round. Here in NC they are most prevalent in August - September. From my research, there are a few natural methods for control.
- Beneficial nematodes is a good option of control (see our prior post regarding this https://goldvoice.club/steem/@kindredacres/got-pests-try-this-natural-pest-control ). We didn't use them this year which is like why we are having this issue. This is my first time ever having to deal with these guys.
- Apart from beneficial nematodes, there are other helpful garden friends are great at keeping them under control. Parasitic wasps, Assassin bugs, and Lacewing are a few that are great for helping with population control.
- In a small setting this next method would be helpful. Drape landscape fabric over your squash at night when they are most active. This prevents the moth from accessing the squash and laying their eggs on them. This would be hard to do with the larger plants that tend to vine but more suitable for the smaller bush type of squash.
- Encouraging bats is another option. Bats eat the moths which in turn reduces the population.
- And finally, keep the garden tidy. The pupation stage for this moth typically occurs in a leaf fold of the dying, dead, or dry material from the squash plants. Sometimes you may see them in a rolled-up fresh leaf held closed with a few strands of silk. Cleaning up dead leaf debris will minimize their shelter options. Be on the lookout for these rolled leaves that may house the pupa and remove as soon as possible.
We will be using many if not all of these options here. I want to be sure to get these guys under control before it becomes a major issue. They got into a few of our Long Island Cheese pumpkins (the smaller newly forming ones, but not the larger ones that were curing), and a sweet dumpling squash. They haven't gotten to bothering the Thai Kang Kobs thankfully so I may early harvest what is out there so far just so I don't lose them. I thought I'd share this info in case any of you have faced or are facing this situation. We have been blessed to not have a major pest issue this year (or in years past) so this pickleworm is all new to me. I'll let y'all know how my methods of control work out.
With lots of love
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