The Pickleworm (Diaphania nitidalis)

Updated: May 5

This morning, when I checked out my cute little cucumber, it had been invaded by a pickleworm moth! It can be a bit disconcerting to discover a pickleworm beat you to the enjoyment of your own cucumber that you grew from seed.

Once the tropical weather conditions in the south become firmly established, pickleworm moths invade in the hot, humid summer and migrate up north with the heat. One of the first signs that you have a pickleworm problem is the clearish frass (aka poop).

Pickleworm may damage summer squash, cucumber, cantaloupe, and pumpkin. They can produce as many as 4 generations per season, so it's extremely important to keep an eye out before they become out of control and wreck havoc in your garden. They can be difficult to detect before the damage occurs because of their small egg size and nocturnal flight.

Moths fly during evening hours typically up to five hours after sundown, with peak flight at approximately around midnight. The moths lay tiny eggs on host plants. Eggs are tiny spherical shaped with hatching occuring in about 4 days. The estimated egg production is around 300 to 400 eggs per female. Pupation usually occurs in a folded leaf and lasts up to 9 days. If not caught early, these pests are difficult to control once they infest and can spread through the garden.

Sometimes you need a little help if the pests get out of control in the garden. Organic farming insecticides like diluted neem oil sprayed in the evening can help with powdery mildew and pests. Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) is another natural option as it’s a bacteria found naturally in the soil. Both are best applied in the evening time and always follow label directions for diluting concentrated products. For some this isn’t the most organic way at all.

You can add a mosquito net over your plants in the evening before the moths take flight to lay their eggs, and remove the net early morning so the bees can pollinate the crop during the day. ...or you can save yourself some time and enjoy an abundant harvest before the moths arrive by planting early in the season.

No matter how you slice it 🥒, it’s always fascinating to learn more about the garden and the ecosystem surrounding. 🐛

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