Flowering Insectary Strips Provide Habitat for Beneficial Insects for the Control of Striped Cucumber Beetle

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Flowering Insectary Strips Provide Habitat for Beneficial Insects for the Control of Striped Cucumber Beetle

Gladis Zinati1,*, Maggie Saka2, Emily Lesher3, Tara Caton4, Kayleigh Dinoto5, Allison DeSario, and Dana Smith7, Dan Kemper8, Ross Duffield9

1Associate Research Scientist, 2Plant Production Specialist, 3Research Technician, 4Senior Lab Technician, 5,6&7Research Intern, 8Field Forman, and 9Farm Manager
Rodale Institute, 611 Siegfriedale Road, Kutztown, PA 19530
Contact information Email: gladis.zinati@rodaleinstitute.org

Striped cucumber beetle (SCB) (Acalymma vittatum) is the principle vector of Erwinia tracheiphila, the causal agent of bacterial wilt of Cucurbitaceae. Cucumber and muskmelon are highly susceptible to bacterial wilt with yield losses of up to 80% reported while squash and pumpkin are moderately susceptible. Cucurbit growers maintain striped cucumber beetle populations below economic thresholds (1 SCB/plant) by using row covers and chemical controls, including systemic neonicotinoids, which are harmful to vegetable crop pollinators. Specialty cucurbit growers are interested in tactics that eliminate the use of pesticides, improve soil health, and increase crop yields while reducing the impact of SCB.

In 2015, a research team at Rodale Institute, Kutztown, PA, received funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture under the Specialty Crop Block Grant program to establish field plots and conduct research studies on integrated management systems on striped cucumber beetle, soil health, and cucumber yield. The management systems included two types of mulch (plastic vs. rolled cover crop) with and without flowering insectary strips.

Including annual and perennial plants in the insectary strips enhances the diversity and population of beneficial insects that predate or parasitize different life stages of SCB. In this web article we provide information on establishment of cucumber beds using cover crop mixes but mainly will elaborate on the plants that formed the flowering insectary strips, their attributes and the ecological services they provide. Results on the impacts of mulch cover and insectary strips on SCB and beneficial insects will be shared in another web article, please stay tuned.

Field design and field activities
In a randomized complete block design with four replications, two cover crop mixes were chosen for this experimental trial – hairy vetch with rye (HV/R) and rye with field pea (R/P). The cover crop mixes were drilled on August 31, 2016 and then were either rolled or plowed under on June 1st, 2016. Cucumber ‘Ministro’ seedlings were either transplanted into black plastic or into rolled cover crops and covered with row covers to protect the young seedlings from striped cucumber beetles. Key factors were taken into consideration in selecting the flowering insectary plants listed in Table 1. These factors include the ecology and timing of pests and beneficial insects, resources of nectar, pollen, alternative hosts/prey they provide at time needed for controlling pests, flowering structures, serving as trap or deterrent crops, duration of flowering, ease of establishment, and availability to growers.

Table 1. Plant species and their attributes used in flowering insectary strips for the control of striped cucumber beetle pest.

This material is based upon work supported by a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture- Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.

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