Melons (Cucumis melo) of all kinds, as well as their close relatives, squash (Cucurbita pepo) and cucumbers (Cucumis sativus), are afflicted by numerous pests. Insect problems range from small aphids and spider mites to larger beetles and wormlike pests. These pests usually damage the leaves and vines, but they can also wreak havoc on the fruit and spread disease. Fortunately, most can be eradicated without chemicals.
1 Till the earth with a shovel or tiller to a depth of 8 inches in spring before you plant melons. This process kills cucumber beetles, squash bugs and squash borers that might be overwintering in the soil.
2 Cover the ground with floating row covers immediately after planting melons. Floating row covers keep insect pests from getting onto the melons after planting. These fabrics also create warm, moist conditions for faster plant growth. Remove the covers when the plants start to bloom so bees can pollinate them.
3 Handpick large melon pests, such as cucumber beetles and squash beetles. Drop them in a bucket of soapy water to dispatch them.
4 Place a piece of cardboard under the melon plants to trap squash bugs. These insects hide in dark, moist places and congregate under the cardboard. Turn the board over and step on the bugs or drop them in soapy water.
5 Spray the melon plants with a steady stream of water to get rid of aphids and spider mites. Spray both the tops and undersides of the leaves, which is where the pests tend to hang out.
6 Search for signs of squash borers, such as holes in the vines and debris that looks like sawdust. Cut a slit in the vine above the hole. Insert a long needle or wire into the vine to skewer squash borers. Once the insects are dead, cover the slit with soil so the plant can repair itself. Squash borers rarely attack melons, and are more common in squash plants.
Items you will need
- Shovel or tiller
- Floating row covers
- Dish soap
- Wire or long needle
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