Pickle Worms: A Side Effect of Tropical Storms…??

Because of the constant battering of wind and rain over the last three days, I haven’t been as vigilant in keeping up with the garden.  I’ve never had a problem with pests or disease or rot so I would be honest when I tell you how surprised I am at how easy tending a garden can be! Considering I am usually out there every single day, I smugly assumed I could afford to take advantage of the recent rainy days and call them a vacation from weeding.

So yesterday I did a more thorough inspection of things. I’m happy to report that the carrots are growing by leaps and bounds and the ground cherries mightily fought through the storm. I am also quite proud to pimp out the benefits of worm castings because my Juliet tomatoes are growing all hogwild these days.  All’s well in the garden.

Except when it comes to the cucumbers.

worm goo

By the time I made it over to my cucumbers, I noticed a pile of goo resting on the trellis. A cuke was hanging right next to the goo and I instantly thought about rot. But then I saw a few holes in one of my other cukes. Of the eight total cucumbers that were growing on the vine, I had to rid myself of six of them. SIX! Because they all looked like this:

worm tunnels

The eight-year old Mad Scientist who lives inside of me ran into the kitchen and grabbed an old, worn-out knife. I had to see what was burrowing into my cucumbers. I would be lying if I told you my stomach didn’t turn the whole time I sliced into them because I had immediately convinced myself that all that goo was actually larvae eggs*.

Remember, I’m a first-time gardener and have absolutely no idea what the hell I’m talking about half the time.

chewed-up worm goo

if you look closely enough, you can see one of the little monsters behind all that goo!

All of my ruined cucumbers were filled with little wriggling worms (I’ve seen them referred to as cucumber worms and as pickle worms/pickleworms). Some were fat and some were on their way to becoming fat, but all of them were on their way to becoming what I learned are cucumber beetles. Or, as I was calling them during the dissection, little sh**heads.

cucumber worm

cucumber worm

Favorite hosts: cucumbers (apparently!), winter squash, summer squash, cantaloupes, and pumpkins.They seem to favor North Florida during waves of tropical weather, so, in some small way, I have Tropical Storm Beryl to thank for this destruction. You can learn more about these nasty little guys by clicking here.

*After some research, it turns out that these random piles of goo inside and outside of the cukes are, in fact, not mounds of larvae eggs. They are actually piles up chewed up cucumber that have been spit out.Yes, piles of spit.  Eeeww.

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9 thoughts on “Pickle Worms: A Side Effect of Tropical Storms…??

  1. Eeeuw is right! Kind of like watching an episode of Bones. About the only thing I ever grew in recent history (i.e., 30 years ago) were tomatoes, which had to be scouted daily for tomato worms. At least they decimated the leaves before they got after the tomatoes but they could grow to several inches long in a day. No way was I stepping on or severing them. I threw them in a garbage can and put on the lid. Which took care of them in the hot sun. (Cruelty to tomato worms.)

    • Yep! I also got some good pitching practice in when I chucked them (and the damaged cucumbers) deep into the woods behind my house. Great tension relief!

  2. Good article! I am a first time gardener this year and I would definitely term this as “The Learning Year”! I have lost my Cherokee Purple tomatoes to White Fly…(I tried everything to treat them…I caught them toooooo late..not knowing what they were) and now my hybrid watermelons growing up a trellis are now covered with wormholes. I am so sick I cant even tell you! Thanks for sharing though…

    • Definitely a learning year! I’ve also learned what I don’t want to grow again and what to watch for in repeat crops. Sorry about your watermelon 😦

  3. Did you find a way to get rid of them? We’re having the same problem! And I are a cucumber that I later found out had them in it! Ewww.

    • Oh no! That sounds…well, pretty gross. I did not look into a solution because I ended up moving to Oklahoma (we don’t contend with too much tropical weather here). I would recommend the UF IFAS extension for some information. They were a great help to me with their useful page. Good luck! I’ve only heard that when the tropical weather hits early in the season that it’s difficult to recover. I hope I heard wrong.

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