Orginally published in the N.E.P.G.A. Newsletter - March, 2000
The year 2000 pumpkin season is almost upon us, so this is an appropriate time to revisit the subject of insect control. The three most common pumpkin predators are the cucumber beetle, the squash bug and the squash vine borer.
The cucumber beetle is a small yellow insect, about ladybug size, with black stripes or spots. They are usually the first pests to arrive in the pumpkin patch and can do extensive damage to a young transplant. When the weather warms up in May, you are almost certain to find an outbreak of the beetles. It is not uncommon to see a heavy infestation of beetles totally defoliate a young seedling in a matter of a day or two. I find Sevin to be quite effective at killing the cucumber beetle. Organic growers can achieve some control with Rotenone 5%.
The squash bug (stinkbug) has become a very tough customer to control. The adults are slate gray in color and measure 0.5 to 0.75 of an inch long. If you notice blackened areas on your leaves, a squash bug has probably paid you a visit. Sevin and Rotenone will give a little control of the juveniles but no control of the adult squash bug. Asana will knock out squash bugs, however it is a restricted use insecticide requiring a license to obtain it. One good way to catch squash bugs is to lay a three foot square piece of plywood on the ground near the plant. When you come back next morning flip over the plywood and you will find them hiding underneath. When you crush them, you will find why they are also called "stink bugs".
The squash vine borer is the most dreaded enemy of the pumpkin grower. People in parts of Northern and Central U.S.A. and Canada may or may not be "blessed" with the borer, but most growers in the U.S.A. are well aware of the damage that this insect can cause.
Sevin has been used for many years by growers trying to control the borer. Actually, Sevin is not labeled for control of the vine borer on pumpkins. Methoxychlor is somewhat effective for borer control and should be applied once a week from the middle of June through July. If you have a private applicator’s pesticide license you can use Asana which is by far the most effective chemical to control the vine borer. Organic growers must use Rotenone 5% on the leaf stems and vines, but Rotenone is not nearly as effective as Asana.
To review, start out with Sevin for cucumber beetles and switch to Methoxychlor for squash bugs and borer control. Organic growers use Rotenone and mechanical harvesting of squash bugs with the plywood technique.
If you are interested in finding out about a private applicator’s pesticide license, contact your local cooperative extension for information on obtaining a license. The training that they give you will teach you the proper application of chemicals and how to handle them safely. Once you have received your license, you will have a wider choice of more effective farm and garden chemicals.
For people interested in obtaining Methoxychlor, it would be a good idea to locate some as soon as possible. The U.S.D.A. and the E.P.A. require re-registration of all pesticides every so many years. It costs huge amounts of money to re-certify a pesticide and rumor has it that Methoxychlor may not go through the re-labeling process. I understand that if the manufacturer decides not to continue producing Methoxychlor, you can still buy material on shelves at your garden center. So if you choose to use Methoxychlor, go out and find it as soon as possible.