Q. What are the little worms that tunnel into my cucumbers and how can I control them?
A. These are pickleworms. They can be difficult to control. Planting early and harvesting on a regular basis are good cultural methods to follow in growing cucurbits (cucumbers, melons and squash) to minimize pest problems.
There are insecticides to help control pickleworms but a preventative treatment program is needed. Once the worms are in the individual fruit, spraying won’t help. Look for insecticides that contain spinosad, carbaryl (such as Sevin), pyrethroid or a Bt product (such as Dipel). Avoid using insecticides when honeybees are actively pollinating the plants, as many insecticides can be harmful to bees. This is especially true with carbaryl.
Q. I’m having problems with stinkbugs and leaffooted bugs on my tomatoes. Do you have recommendations on their control?
A. Stinkbugs and leaffooted bugs can be very difficult to control. You can use an insecticide that contains spinosad or carbaryl to target the nymphs (immature stage) and an insecticide that contains pyrethroid to target the adults. There are numerous brand names. Active ingredients containing pyrethroids end in the letters “in” such as bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, resmethrin, etc.
It’s important to do your homework when dealing with these insects. You need to take time to learn how to recognize the nymphs compared to the adults, especially with leaffooted bugs. Not only is it easier to control the nymphs but leaffooted bug nymphs look like assassin bug nymphs. And the assassin bug is beneficial because it feeds on other insects. Also, there are beneficial stinkbugs that prey on other insects.
The likelihood of having problems with pest insects and plant diseases increases considerably as we move later into the growing season. Many of these insects will be on their 3rd and 4th generation by midsummer. So their numbers will be greater. With the increased pest pressure and the difficulties of carrying many of the vegetables through our hot summer months, a good gardening practice is to plant early and harvest what you can. And when the pests and heat become too much, forget about it and do away with the plants. The expense, trouble and stress may not be worth trying to keep a few plants producing all summer in Florida.
If you do use insecticides in battling these insects, make sure the product you choose is labeled to be used on the crops you’re treating – tomatoes, for example. And always follow the label directions and precautions.
The below links to UF/IFAS Extension publications provide additional information.
Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent, Okaloosa County, July 16, 2014