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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Squash: A Decoy to Sidetrack Pests from Melons / December 16, 1996 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

Squash: A Decoy to Sidetrack Pests from Melons

By Jan Suszkiw
December 16, 1996

“Squash ‘em!”--but not literally. That’s the advice of scientists, who showed that squash plants will lure cucumber beetles and squash bugs away from more valuable crops like watermelon and cantaloupe.

The tactic, according to the scientists at the Agricultural Research Service, could be a new way to reduce insecticide sprays on commercial melon crops.

Since squash is the insects’ favorite cucurbit, they will feed on it first. In spring, growers typically spray plant seedlings with insecticide two to three times. But they could use less insecticide by planting one or two rows of squash as a “trap crop” around the field’s perimeter.

In experimental watermelon and cantaloupe plots, the tactic lured up to 66 percent of a plot’s total population of the insects. The attraction was fatal for 90 percent of them, because the scientists sprayed insecticide only on the squash perimeter of a plot.

Commercial growers in Texas and Oklahoma are helping the scientists run large-scale field studies. In the Midwest, the approach could also help stop cucumber beetles from spreading a bacterial disease, cucurbit wilt, through the melon patch.

Scientific contact: Sam D. Pair, USDA-ARS Southcentral Agricultural Research Laboratory, Lane, Okla., phone (405) 889-7395.

Last Modified: 4/18/2014
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