Directions For Using a Perimeter Trap Crop Strategy to Protect Cucurbit Crops

Have you tried Perimeter Trap Cropping yet?

Cucumber beetles can cause direct damage to seedlings between the cotyledon and third true leaf stage. That is also the stage when the plants are most susceptible to infection by the bacterial wilt pathogen, which is spread by the beetles. Perimeter trap cropping (PTC) has provided better protection from beetle and wilt damage than multiple, full-field insecticide applications on many Connecticut and Massachusetts farms. Perimeter trap cropping also spares natural enemies on the unsprayed main crop.

Directions: The trap crop (i.e. Blue Hubbard or other Cucurbita maxima squash) should be planted all the way around the main cucurbit crop you are trying to protect. Insecticide applications should be timed to protect the seedling trap crop plants as soon as beetles arrive from overwintering sites. Think of the trap crop as a "poisoned fence!" One to three weekly insecticide applications on the trap crop may be necessary. If not controlled, cucumber beetles disperse throughout the field over time. Using an effective insecticide (e.g. Sevin, Asana or Admire) to kill the colonizing beetle population while they are still on the trap crop is essential when using PTC for cucumber beetles, or higher levels of bacterial wilt could occur. Organic growers may need to reapply pyrethrin or other insecticides every three or four days during the seedling stage and/or supplement with clay applications (Surround) to the main crop. That is because botanicals tend to have a very short residual period of effectiveness and are less efficacious than conventional products.

Trap crop fruit can be marketed as food or ornamentals, or the plants can be pulled out at bloom to prevent competition between the main and trap crops. Competition is not a factor when PTC is used to protect large fields or short-season crops (cucumbers or summer squash), and it is minimal when used on full-season crops (butternut or acorn squash or melons). Much to their surprise, most growers have found that they can easily sell the Blue Hubbard squash. The sale of the Blue Hubbard alone has added an extra $500-$1,000/acre of cucurbits crops for some PTC growers. Almost every grower who has tried PTC has found it simpler to use and more profitable than full field sprays, and they get better control! Why not try PTC on your farm in 2005?

Helpful Hints

After you try PTC, let us know what you think. We'd love to hear from you.

Want to know more about PTC? See 'Moving Towards Ecologically Based Pest Management' in the December issue of the Journal of Extension ( or UConn's IPM Web Site (

Research sponsored by NE SARE
Jude Boucher & Rob Durgy, University of Connecticut;
Ruth Hazzard & Andy Cavanagh, University of Massachusetts

Information on our site was developed for conditions in the Northeast. Use in other geographical areas may be inappropriate.

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