Of course my first thought was, “What the heck are cucumber beetles doing eating my dahlias?” particularly when my cucumbers seem to be unaffected.
After doing a little digging, it appears that they don’t have a problem eating flowers and can be found on the flowers of many ornamental plants. Why this picked this dahlia to harass, I have no idea.
There is some good news. Spotted cucumber beetles (unlike their trendy striped cousins) do not overwinter here. Apparently the adults fly up from the south in mid-summer, lay their eggs in weedy or grassy areas where the larvae hang out until it gets dry and then they fly off to terrorize gardens. We’ve had a very wet summer until the past very dry few weeks, so the timing seems to make sense.
|They even seem to have settled in on a new bud, waiting to lay waste to my beautiful flowers.|
In terms of controlling them, none of the options seem particularly useful or helpful. Handpicking is mentioned as an option, and I have no problem with that as I’ve been squishing sawfly larvae and handpicking Japanese beetles all summer, but I just don’t get how that works when the things fly away as soon as I get close. Putting out sticky insect-catching tape by itself or lining the inside of a plastic cup (I knew Red Solo cups would make their way into gardens soon enough, as they seem to have infiltrated every other aspect of society) and perching it upside down on a stake are also said to be options for catching them.
Everything else involves pretty nasty non-selective insecticides that I’m not interested in using in my garden.
To be honest, there’s not much chance of saving these dahlias at this point. I could cut them back and maybe get one more bloom out of them if I could get rid of the beetles, but so far that seems unlikely. Soon enough the beetles will either die or move on, and hopefully not in my yard, and the problem will solve itself.
Just one more new challenge in the garden.