Author Archives: Lorena Lopez

Pickleworm Monitoring Update

By Lorena Lopez and Helene Doughty; Eastern Shore AREC, Entomology Lab

We continue to see a decrease in the incidence of pickleworms infesting squash at the Eastern Shore Agricultural Research and Education Center (AREC). This week in our last zucchini trial of the year, pickleworm larvae were found only on 10% of the sampled flowers (4 out of 40 flowers). This is an important improvement considering that seven weeks ago we were finding pickleworms in approximately 80% of our samples. This tendency will continue as we get close to winter and low temperatures.

Pickleworm and Melonworm Monitoring Update

By Lorena Lopez and Tom Kuhar; Virginia Tech Department of Entomology

Last week, we continued to find pickleworms borrowing into zucchini squash flowers (Fig. 1) in the Eastern Shore, whereas the incidence of melonworms borrowing in the fruit started to decrease. Additionally, there was evidence of pickleworms borrowing into garden-grown pumpkins in the Chesapeake area, including new borrowing holes found on fruit harvested after a few days (Fig. 2-3).

In the Northern Neck (Montross and Warsaw specifically), zucchini squash, crookneck squash, and pumpkin fields were checked for pickleworm and melonworm infestation in mid-September and early October. There was no evidence of worm infestation.

Figure 1. Pickleworm larva (Diaphania nitidalis) in a zuchinni squash flower (Photo by K. Grabowski)
Figure 2. Pickleworm larva emerging from a pumpkin after long exposure to the sun. Leaving the fruit outdoors may cause the fruit to heat up enough to cause disturbance to the pickleworm (Photo by K. Grabowski)
Figure 3. Pickleworm injury to garden-grown pumpkin in the Cheasepeak area (Photo by K. Grabowski)

Pickleworm/Melonworm Monitoring Update

Increased infestations with pickleworm and melonworms continue to be observed this week in the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Yesterday, Sep. 2nd 2021, these pests were found feeding on yellow summer squash, green zucchini, and dumpling winter squash crops. All plants sampled in Cape Charles (n= 30) and Machipongo (n= 20) showed at least one fruit and one flower bud with either pickleworms or melonworms, many times with both. If you have any squash crops at the moment, please continue to monitor your plants.

Pickleworm/Melonworm Monitoring Update

Both melonworms and pickleworms have been detected in squash plantings yesterday in Cape Charles and Machipongo farms. Approximately, 80% of the plants showed at least one flower bud/fruit with borrowing injuries. Most of the squash fruit and flower buds contained 1-2 melonworms in the latest stages of their larval development (4th-5th instar, Fig. 1). Pickleworms on the other hand, have just started to show up in the area and only 1st to 3rd larval instars were found, most of them on top of flower buds and growing fruit (Fig. 2). Both pests were also detected in one cucumber planting on approximately 30% of the plants sampled. These pests have been detected in squash plantings in Blacksburg this week at a lower infestation rate compared to the Eastern Shore.

Well-timed insecticide applications are crucial for the management of these pests and recently hatched caterpillars that haven’t borrowed into the plant tissue are more susceptible to insecticides. However, once they borrow inside fruits and flower buds, contact insecticides are usually not enough to suppress these pests. The use of systemic insecticides is preferred.

Useful tip: Pickleworms and melonworms are NOT the same as squash vine borers. Squash vine borers borrow into the stems causing severe damage and eventually plant death (Fig. 3), unlike pickleworms and melonworms that feed mostly on the reproductive parts of the plant and occasionally the leaves.

If you find borrowing damage in cucurbit crops on your respective farm or gardens, please contact me at lorelopezq257@vt.edu

Stay tuned for the next update!

Lorena Lopez, Ph.D., Department of Entomology, Eastern Shore AREC, Painter, VA
Photos by Lorena Lopez.

Pickleworm and Melonworm Monitoring Program

We at Virginia Tech are starting a pickleworm and melonworm monitoring program. This program involves information exchange between cucurbit growers and extension agents across the state that look for these pests’ damage to blossoms or fruit and report it back to me, Lorena Lopez, a vegetable entomologist at the Eastern Shore AREC. I will send out a weekly alert of the incidence of these pests in the state, based on this information chain and monitoring efforts in cucurbit crops located in Blackburg and the Eastern Shore AREC. The goal is to keep growers updated and help them manage these sporadic late-season pests.

A quick overview of these pests:

Both pickleworms and melonworms feed on wild and cultivated cucurbit species. Pickleworm adults are not active during the day, only at night when females lay their eggs close to flowers or flower buds. The larvae burrow into the fruit where it feeds and develops. Larva color varies from light green to translucent with multiple dark spots and varies in size from 0.05 to 0.6 inches long. Melonworm adults are usually found during the day on the plants but they can be active during day and night. Females lay their eggs on the underside of the leaves. Larva feeds mostly on leaves and can cause damage by skeletonizing them. However, melonworm larvae can also feed on the fruit and on some occasions can borrow into the fruit like pickleworms. Melonworm larvae are usually light green with two white lines in the back and have a similar size to the pickleworm larvae. Adults of both pests are very hard to differentiate.

Pickleworm larva (J. L. Capinera, UF/IFAS)
Melonworm larva (L. Buss, UF/IFAS)
Fruit damage caused by pickleworm and melonworm larvae (L. Lopez, Virginia Tech)

Early this week we found melonworms in our yellow summer squash at the Eastern Shore AREC. Yellow summer squash is one of the preferred hosts of these pests. All melonworm larvae were found feeding inside the fruit which is uncommon for this pest. We haven’t found any pickleworms yet.

The help and communication network between extension agents, cucurbit growers, and entomologists like myself is vital for the monitoring program. Thus, if you find borrowing damage in the cucurbit flowers or fruit in your respective farm or gardens, please contact me at lorelopezq257@vt.edu

Stay tuned for next week’s update!

Lorena Lopez, Ph.D., Department of Entomology, Eastern Shore AREC, Painter, VA

Pest Alert: Cyclamen mites in Chesapeake strawberries

In the past weeks, a few strawberry growers have expressed their concern about the possibility of cyclamen mite infestations. After visiting some strawberry farms in the Chesapeake area this week, I found symptoms of cyclamen mite damage in a few fields. Because of the small size of the mites, I took leaf samples from the symptomatic plants and confirmed the presence of the mites in the laboratory.

The cyclamen mite is a serious pest of strawberries. It has been reported in most strawberry-producing states. Cyclamen mites are tiny mites (0.001 in long) that feed on the tissue of nonexpanded and newly unfolded leaves in the strawberry plants. Adults and immatures of the cyclamen mite are considerably smaller than two-spotted spider mites and cannot be easily seen with the naked or a hand lens. Symptoms of cyclamen mite infestation include severely crumpled and crinkled leaves, as well as stunted plants.

The presence of cyclamen mites was confirmed mostly on ‘Ruby June’ strawberries, but they can infest any strawberry cultivar. Strawberry growers in the Virginia Beach metropolitan area and the eastern shore should beware of the presence of this pest mite in their field. There are very few miticides available for the control of cyclamen mites. Unfortunately, the same products used for the control of two-spotted spider mites do not always provide control for cyclamen mites. The best performing product against this pest is Portal (fenpyroximate). Agri-mek (abamectin), is also labeled for cyclamen mites. Despite being miticides, Acramite and Magister are not labeled for control of cyclamen mite and may not provide enough protection against it.

Dr. Lorena Lopez
Department of Entomology
Virginia Tech | Eastern Shore Agricultural Research and Extension Center (ESAREC)
(954) 529 9042 | lorelopezq257@vt.edu