The high yield of cucumbers makes it one of the best crops to grow during summer. However, cucumbers can attract various pests that can severely damage your crops. What can you do to keep bugs and insects from eating and damaging this delicious and watery fruit?
Here are some ways you can stop bugs from eating cucumbers:
- Keep your garden and cucumbers clean and healthy.
- Set up traps and physical barriers.
- Spread diatomaceous earth.
- Use Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT).
- Attract beneficial predatory insects.
- Keep toads and frogs nearby.
- Practice mulching.
- Trim off infested sections.
- Use pesticides.
In this article, I’ll give you an in-depth look at all the above methods so you can take actionable steps to stop bugs from eating your cucumbers. Following that, I’ve also highlighted the most common pests that attack cucumbers with information on how they look, where they hide, and how to keep them under control.
1. Keep Your Garden and Cucumbers Clean and Healthy
Bugs and insects are attracted to a cluttered environment. Keeping your garden clean of debris will make the area unappealing to a wide range of insects, thereby keeping your cucumbers safe and away from harm.
When cleaning your garden, focus on the following points:
- Remove fallen leaves and dead blossoms along with spoiled crops lying on the ground.
- Yank out any growing weeds completely with their roots.
- Wash the soil to remove dead insects, pet feces, food items, etc.
- Harvest the cucumber frequently, preferably every day.
- Inspect cucumber plants daily for any insect or disease activity.
Along with cleaning your garden, it’s also important that you focus on keeping the cucumbers healthy and well nourished.
Cucumbers are relatively low-maintenance crops, and watering them regularly should be enough to keep them healthy. However, if you want a detailed guide, here’s a great read on growing cucumbers.
2. Set Up Traps and Physical Barriers
Even the cleanest gardens and healthiest crops will attract one or two bugs. And if you let your guard down, these bugs will slowly build a colony until you have a full-blown infestation on your hands.
As such, it’s important to stop these few bugs right from the get-go.
To do this, you can set up insect traps such as sticky paper that catch and hold the pest allowing you to dispose of them later. I personally like using Gideal Dual-Sided Sticky Traps (available on Amazon). It’s perfect for catching whiteflies, aphids, & other small insects and is made from non-toxic, eco-friendly materials.
Apart from setting traps, you should also consider putting up physical barriers. This will prevent the bugs from physically coming close to your crops.
I like using the Valibe Plant Covers (available on Amazon) to protect cucumbers. It’s made by spinning lightweight polyester, which lets in sufficient sunlight to facilitate growth while keeping out pests.
3. Spread Diatomaceous Earth
Alongside physical barriers and insect traps, you can also try spreading diatomaceous earth around the soil where you’re growing your cucumbers.
Diatomaceous earth is made of silica powder obtained from the crushed fossilized remains of an ancient sea organism called diatoms. If looked at under a microscope, diatomaceous earth appears like small glass fragments.
When a bug comes in contact with this stuff, it damages its exoskeleton and eventually dehydrates the bug to death.
This powder is particularly effective at dealing with cutworms and cabbage loopers. It can also help kill off the larvae of other insects that breed in the soil.
4. Use Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT)
Bacillus thuringiensis, also known as BT, is a powerful organic insecticide that can exterminate many bug varieties and yet won’t cause any damage to your cucumbers or other crops you’re growing.
BT is a soil-based bacteria. It naturally releases a toxin when living inside the soil, and this toxin can kill a wide variety of insects. Fortunately, the toxin won’t affect your crops or cause any harm to humans or pets.
That said, when purchasing BT, you’ll find that there are different strains of the insecticide. Each strain is specialized in killing certain insects and won’t affect others.
- Toxins from the BT-K strain kill caterpillars
- Toxins from the BT-I strain kill flies
- Toxins from the BT-G strain kill beetles
You’ll first need to identify which pests are eating your cucumbers and then purchase the appropriate BT strain to kill those insects.
5. Attract Beneficial Predatory Insects
If you’re okay with having lots of bugs roaming around your garden, you can try welcoming predatory insects that’ll feast on pests damaging your cucumbers.
Just like some animals are herbivores and others carnivores, there are also herbivorous and carnivorous insects.
For gardeners, it’s beneficial to have carnivorous insects roaming around. They can make quick work of the bugs that are eating your crops.
But how do you get predatory insects inside your garden? Well, you can plant different flowers such as:
- Lace flower
- Black-eyed Susan
The scent of these flowers will attract beneficial predatory insects to your garden. They will then protect the space from pesky pests.
That said, if you wish to attract predatory insects to your garden, it helps to educate yourself on how they look so you don’t accidentally kill or get rid of them.
Here’s a list of the most common beneficial insects you should know as a gardener:
6. Keep Toads and Frogs Nearby
If you’re not a fan of dealing with more insects, you can try welcoming toads and frogs. They, too, can help protect your cucumbers and other crops by feasting on the pests that are eating them.
All you need to do to attract toads in your garden is keep a water source nearby and provide access to food—that is, the bugs. To make the place appealing to toads so that they’ll stay there and not leave, you can even build a small house for these helpful amphibians.
Here’s a useful 4-minute YouTube video showcasing how to create a toad house:
If the toads or frogs don’t come in voluntarily in your garden, you can manually place them inside the toad house. With ample food and water supply, they aren’t likely to leave.
7. Practice Mulching
Mulching is a gardening technique where you cover the surface of the soil with a layer of a material called mulch. Mulch helps retain the soil moisture and improve its overall fertility.
Mulch can be made using various materials depending on what you want to do with it.
To steer away bugs and pests, I suggest adding highly reflective silver-colored plastic to the mulch. During the day, when the sun hits the mulch, it’ll reflect light, which will deter a lot of pests.
Furthermore, the mulch will also prevent many bugs from laying eggs on the ground, thereby slowing down their population growth.
Other than this, you can also try using straw mulch. It’ll attract wolf spiders into your garden, which can kill beetles and other pests trying to feed on your cucumbers.
8. Trim off Infested Sections
If pests are still pestering your cucumbers after trying all these methods, you’ll need to adopt some radical measures.
First, cut or trim the infested sections on your cucumbers.
Usually, most bugs or insects will gather together around one region and start their feasting party from there. By trimming off this region and disposing of the damaged part, you’re removing a major portion of the insects from your garden.
Also, the more damaged cucumbers you leave in your garden, the more they’ll let out a rotting smell that attracts even more pests. This is why it’s important to dispose of the rotten parts as soon as possible.
After trimming off the infested bits, practice the methods discussed above. However, if that doesn’t stop the bugs and more of them are coming in, you likely have a serious infestation that needs a serious solution.
9. Use Pesticides
If your cucumbers are swarmed by tons of bugs and insects, you need to act quickly, or the pests can ruin the harvest completely. This is a scenario where I suggest using pesticides.
There are organic pesticides and inorganic pesticides. I personally recommend staying clear of store-bought inorganic pesticides as they often do more harm than help.
In terms of organic pesticides, you can try using BT, as discussed earlier. However, it’s most effective if your cucumbers are predominantly affected by a certain type of bug.
If you see different types of bugs eating your cucumbers, you need to try a broad spectrum pesticide.
Here are a few pesticide solutions you can whip up at home, all of which will work wonders at killing and preventing insect infestations without damaging your cucumbers:
- Crushed garlic mixed with water and dish soap
- Oil and soap mixture
- Neem oil (either store-bought or made by crushing neem leaves at home)
- Hot chili pepper powder
- Citrus concentrate solution (made using freshly squeezed lemons)
- Epsom salt and water solution
Which Bugs Eat Cucumbers?
Here’s a list of the most common bugs that eat cucumbers:
- Cucumber beetles
- Squash bugs
- Cabbage loopers
You can use plant covers, inorganic pesticides, and sticky tape to get rid of these bugs.
Let’s quickly go over each of these bugs in more detail, discussing how they look, how they damage cucumbers, where on the crop you can find them, and the most effective treatment for each.
Cucumber beetles are moderately sized with a yellow pill body either having stripes or dots.
These critters will lay eggs near the base of your cucumber plants. After hatching, the larvae will start eating the roots, and when they fully mature, they will start feasting on the fruit.
Besides causing physical damage to your cucumbers by biting them, cucumber beetles also carry wilt disease. If you don’t quickly remove the crop with wilt disease, the illness will spread quickly, resulting in mass destruction of the crops.
Using plant covers to prevent cucumber beetles from getting close to the cucumbers is often the best method to stop them. Insecticides are rarely effective at controlling these pests. However, you can try welcoming wolf spiders, as they are natural predators of these beetles.
Squash bugs attack crops from the squash family, to which cucumbers belong.
The pests are moderately sized with a flattened disc-like appearance, with two antennas in their front. They are generally black or dark brown in color. The critters usually lay eggs in groups. You should find them on the leaves or stems of the cucumber plant.
Squash bugs won’t bite your cucumbers but use their straw-like mouthparts to suck their nutrients. If it drains too many nutrients, the cucumbers will tale on a yellowish appearance and a dehydrated texture.
To control squash bugs, you should use plant covers to prevent them from accessing your cucumbers. If they do manage to get in, you can try using neem oil to deter or kill them. Sticky tape also works exceptionally well at removing squash bug eggs.
Cutworms are caterpillars and the larval stage of a night-flying moth. They are usually 2-inches long and gray, brown, yellow, or green colored, depending on the particular species.
As you can gather from its name, a cutworm chews through the stems of small crops or seedlings. This makes the crop appear “cut” from its base.
The critter won’t target your fully grown cucumbers but will make quick work of the seedling.
If the cutworm infestation becomes too severe, which can happen, I suggest using BT-K to get things under control. Besides this, diatomaceous earth and plant covers are enough to keep out small numbers of cutworms.
Cabbage loopers are another type of caterpillar, usually 2-inches long and green-colored, with white or silvery stripes. As they mature, cabbage loopers metamorphose into butterflies.
These pests primarily feed on leaves but sometimes can directly start nibbling away at your cucumbers.
If you only notice a few of these critters in your garden, you can simply pick them up by hand and relocate them somewhere else. Other than this, plant covers are excellent at keeping these bugs out.
BT-K will help you quickly remove cabbage loopers from your garden in the case of a heavy infestation.
Thrips are one of the smallest garden pests—so tiny you can’t see them with the naked eye.
However, despite their minuscule size, thrips can cause devastating damage to your cucumber cultivation.
The pest can directly penetrate the cells of the cucumber plant. This can happen on the fruit or the leaves. If it attacks the leaves, it can cause silver streaks to appear, which nullifies the leaves’ ability to perform photosynthesis. This can result in defoliation.
If thrips attack the cucumber fruit, you’ll notice a discolored, dehydrated appearance in the affected area.
With thrips, the best control measure is prevention. Keeping your garden clean and providing a clean water source will make a thrips infestation less likely.
That said, if thrips do manage to get in, you can easily control its spread by trimming off and throwing away the damaged portions of the crop.
In case of a heavy infestation, you can try neem oil or other horticultural oil as a form of insecticide.
The first step to stopping bugs from eating your cucumbers comes with keeping the garden clean and the cucumbers healthy. The pests are mostly attracted to dirty environments and rotting crops and will leave clean spaces alone.
To control the few bugs already wreaking havoc on your cucumbers, you can try setting up traps, installing physical barriers, spreading diatomaceous earth, and practicing mulching. Besides this, you can also use BT to attract beneficial insects and keep toads and frogs nearby.
In case you’re dealing with a heavy infestation, you can resort to using pesticides or trim off the infested sections.