Keep Trees, Shrubs, and Plants Vigorous
Unless the underlying stress that made your plants vulnerable to cucumber beetles is identified and corrected, the pests may return next year. Give some thought to the affected plant’s situation. Make an effort to improve its vigor by watering it during dry periods over the summer and fertilizing it in the fall, if appropriate. Mulch it to discourage weeds, hold soil moisture, and improve the health of the soil beneath it. Make sure the plant is getting enough light, as surrounding plants may grow and block the sun a bit more.
Manipulate The Planting Date
Because cucumber beetle populations die down by late June in many areas of the northern United States, try planting susceptible crops later than usual, for a fall harvest when possible. Stagger your planting dates. Start some seedlings early indoors and set them out at normal planting time. If you cover transplants with a barrier such as garden fleece for the first month or so, they will escape much damage. Set new plants out or plant seeds in new hills every week so your plants won't all be at the most vulnerable stage at the same time.
Mulch Your Garden Well
All vegetables grow better when the soil is protected and enriched by a 2 to 4 inch layer of organic mulch, such as grass clippings, shredded newspapers, wood chips, or straw. In this case, the mulch is not only holding in moisture and cooling the soil, but it’s protecting your plants from cucumber beetles as well. A thick straw mulch can reduce the number of adult beetles that lay eggs at the base of the plants. As a bonus, the mulch is a good cover for beneficial insects such as soldier beetles, ants, and spiders, which will eat beetle eggs.
Attract Beneficial Insects To The Yard
Birds, spiders, and predator insects will kill many more cucumber beetles than a homeowner armed with insecticide ever will. If you don't use broad-spectrum insecticides, you should have lots of beneficial insects such as spiders, soldier beetles, and ants, which eat beetle eggs. Other insect predators include tachinid flies and braconid wasps.
Encourage the natural predators of cucumber beetles to stay in your yard by providing them with a tempting variety of their favorite plant sources of pollen and nectar. One product, Border Patrol™, is a seed mix of wildflowers particularly attractive to beneficial insects, and includes evening primrose (Primula), wild buckwheat (Eriogonum), candytuft (Iberis), baby blue-eyes (Nemophila Menziesii), bishops flower , black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), strawflowers , nasturtiums (Tropaeolium), angelica, and yarrow (Achillea). Click here for more information about Attracting Beneficial Insects.
Feed Birds All Year Round
Next to beneficial insects, songbirds consume the most pest insects in your yard. Even seed-eating birds such as sparrows and finches hunt for insects to feed their young. A single pair of sparrows that live in your yard may have 3 broods of 3 to 4 young a season. The parents must collect vast numbers of insects in your yard to feed them. To enlist the birds’ help in your fight against pest insects, provide food, water, and shelter for bird families. Click here for more information about Attracting Birds To Your Landscape .