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Food Fun with Kids: Rhubarb, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights July 2016. http://acreage.unl.edu/enews-july-2016#Rhubarb

Rhubarb is an easy and nutritious perennial vegetable to grow at home.

Food Fun with Kids: Rhubarb

By Jamie Goffena, Nebraska Extension Food Educator

Wish your child would eat more vegetables? Wish you would eat more vegetables? Children that grow vegetables eat more vegetables than those who don’t. Some easy vegetables to grow with your child are peas, beans, radishes, and lettuce.

One of the easiest vegetables to grow is rhubarb. That’s right! Rhubarb is a vegetable. Being a native of Siberia might be why it’s easy to grow in Nebraska. I remember as a kid, pulling and nibbling on the tiniest super-sour red stalks, a taste similar to today’s sour gummy candy if you dip it in some sugar.

To start rhubarb in your garden ask an acquaintance who has a rhubarb plant for part of a root that you will want to bury in a place that doesn’t get tilled or spaded each year. Once the rhubarb plant is established it will return on its own every spring. Let your child help dig the hole and plant the rhubarb so they feel some ownership. Water when planting and throughout the growing season.

Children will enjoy harvesting this early ripening vegetable. When the stalks are pink and about the size of your finger pull the stalk from the ground. It will break about an inch below the ground surface. Cut off the large leaves and any blemishes. Older children might enjoy using the leaves for a hat or a water pool for small toys. Just be sure to remind them not to eat the leaves; they can be toxic! Stalks are for eating and leaves are for play (or composting).

The tartness of rhubarb remains when cooked and pairs well with sweet fruits such as strawberries and mangos, vanilla or almond flavoring, milk or cream, fatty fish or meat, and even mild flavored vegetables such as leaf lettuce.

Food Fun with Kids: Rhubarb, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights July 2016. http://acreage.unl.edu/enews-july-2016#Rhubarb

Rhubarb is nutritious. 1/2 cup provides:

  • 20% of a young child's daily Vitamin C needed (5 mg)
  • 57 grams water
  • 1.1 gram fiber (5%)
  • 52 mg calcium (5%)
  • 7 mg magnesium (5%)
  • 175 mg potassium (5%) 

Your child can help you cook the pie recipe below or cook a simple sauce with 4 cups chopped rhubarb and 1 cup sugar (add 1 teaspoon vanilla flavor after the sauce has cooked 4-8 hours in a small slow cooker).

Tasks your child can do are washing the stalks, putting the ½” cut pieces in a measuring cup, measuring ingredients, stirring and any other task that you demonstrate and explain in detail to them.

More rhubarb recipes can be found at:

Although most rhubarb recipes do include sugar, rhubarb is filled with these nutrients: vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, potassium and many anti-oxidants. It is a healthy trade-off to get your child and you eating more vegetables. And rhubarb is an easy way to start gardening with your kids!

Food Fun with Kids: Rhubarb, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights July 2016. http://acreage.unl.edu/enews-july-2016#Rhubarb
Rhubarb Custard Pie

Rhubarb Custard Pie (serves 8)

  • 1 unbaked pie crust
  • 4 cups fresh rhubarb, cut to ½” pieces*
  • 2 cups (or less) sugar*
  • 3 tablespoons tapioca (or corn) starch
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla flavor
  • 3 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
  1. Press an unbaked pie crust into a pie plate crimping the edges.
  2. Coat rhubarb pieces with the dry ingredients.
  3. Add eggs, vanilla and yogurt. Stir till mixed well.
  4. Fill the unbaked pie crust with the rhubarb mixture.
  5. Cover the crust edges with foil to prevent over browning. Bake 20 minutes at 400°.
  6. Reduce temperature to 325° and bake 40 minutes more or until done.
  7. Let cool completely and refrigerate.

* Substitute a 3 ounce package of strawberry gelatin for part of the sugar or use strawberries for 1-2 cups of the rhubarb.

Sources:

  • Davis J, Spaniol M, Somerset S. Sustenance and sustainability: maximizing the impact of school gardens on health outcomes. Public Health Nutrition. 2015;18(13):2358-2367
  • Segnit, Niki. The Flavor Thesaurus, Bloomsbury: New York, 2010.
  • United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Composition Database, https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/, accessed May 25, 2016.

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Re-Think Your Drink

By Brenda Sale, Nebraska Extension Associate 

Re-Think Your Drink, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights July 2016. http://acreage.unl.edu/enews-july-2016#Drink
Choosing healthy beverages is more challenging than ever before, since sweetened beverages are one of the most prominent sources of added sugars in a person's diet. 

I remember when I was a kid, ordering a large beverage at a fast food restaurant meant you were served 16 ounces.  Today that same large request is anywhere from 32 to 64 ounces. Choosing healthy beverages and understanding what is healthy is more challenging than ever before.  Soft drink consumption has increased 500 percent over the past 50 years.

Sugar sweetened beverages are one of the most prominent sources of added sugars in a person’s diet today. With the influx of soft drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, and sugar laden beverages marketed to kids, it’s no wonder there is a rise in childhood obesity and illness related to increased sugar and calorie intake. Then add in the super-sized portions and free refills, and beverages have become more of a problem. Beverages also contain a variety of preservatives, additives, and various forms of caffeine that make reading and understanding a label, and knowing what you are really drinking, difficult for consumers.

It All Counts
Fluid intake comes in various forms, and it all counts toward your daily intake. Milk, juice, spritzers, flavored waters, tea, coffee, water based soups, and fruits all count. Yes, some fruits are 70-90 percent water and can help hydrate your body simply by getting your recommended two fruit servings daily. Although you should limit your intake of caffeinated beverages, all fluids count toward your daily intake.

If you do choose calorie containing beverages, choose reduced calorie, low sugar alternatives, and limit your intake. Choose waters and flavored waters first to get plenty of fluids for healthy body function and hydration.

Don’t forget to increase your fluid intake during exercise or while working outside in the summer heat. With increased perspiration comes increased fluid loss, which needs to be replaced. Thirst is not a good indicator to drink water. Once you are physically thirsty, your body is already on its way to getting dehydrated. Drink fluids before exercise or working outside, and again when you finish. A good rule of thumb:drink long before you feel thirsty, and keep drinking even after you feel hydrated.

Make It Simple
Water is your best source for hydration. Our bodies are composed of approximately 55- 75 percent water. It is needed for almost every bodily function, from saliva production to digestion, circulation, kidney function to eliminate waste products, and for a healthy metabolism. Sufficient water intake allows the metabolism to function adequately, which aides in weight management. Plain and simple, our bodies need water to function and live! You could survive weeks without food, but without water, your body’s systems begin to shut down in a matter of days.

Staying hydrated affects all areas of your health. Water is a calorie free beverage that is cheap and easy to have available. A 32-64 ounce measured water bottle can help to keep track of water intake daily and can make drinking plenty of water easier. It is also portable and free!

The amount of water a person needs varies depending on age, sex, level of physical activity, presence of certain medical conditions, and some medications.  According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, this can range anywhere from 8-13 cups daily depending on those factors.

Re-Think Your Drink, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights July 2016. http://acreage.unl.edu/enews-july-2016#Drink
Infusing water with the fruits adds flavor and nutrition. 

Infuse It
If you have trouble with plain water, flavor it! Add fruits such as oranges, strawberries, mixed berries, melons, cucumber, or fresh mint for added nutrition and flavor. There is no one recipe for infusion, but as a rule, use 2-4 cups of fruit per gallon of water, and use about ¼ cup of produce per glass.

Squeeze or press fruit to release juices and allow to chill for 2 hours for flavors to enhance the water.  You can also make ice cubes with herbs and fruit for daily infusions.

Water Infusions
Blueberry Orange Basil
Recipe courtesy of West Virginia Extension  

  • 1 gallon chilled water
  • 30 to 45 blueberries
  • 3 oranges
  • 9 basil leaves

Squeeze the blueberries, quarter the oranges, and tear the basil leaves in half before adding to the water.

Strawberry and Mint Cooler
Recipe courtesy of Iowa State Extension

  • 18 strawberries (medium size) sliced thin
  • 8 sprigs of mint
  • 1 quart water and ice

In a 2 to 2½ quart pitcher, combine water, ice, strawberries, and mint. Chill for 30 minutes before serving.     

Infusion Food Safety Tips

  • Wash hands, and all fruits thoroughly before preparing infusions.
  • Treat infused water as you would any perishable food and keep it refrigerated.
  • Drink infused waters the same day or the next day for best results. If infused waters remain refrigerated, they can be used for up to 3 days. Unlike commercial fruit juices that contain preservatives, infused waters are fresh and meant to be consumed fresh, just like the fruits you put in them. 

Sources:
ReThink Your Drink, eXtension.org
Water, Hydration and Health, National Center for Biotechnology Information, PubMed Central
Water: How Much Do Kids Need?, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Nutrition Info About Beverages, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Infused Water with Ohio Local Foods, Ohio State University Extension
Caffeine Ingestion and Fluid Balance: A Review, National Center for Biotechnology Information, PubMed Central

The most ecologically valid of the published studies offers no support for the suggestion that consumption of caffeine-containing beverages as part of a normal lifestyle leads to fluid loss in excess of the volume ingested or is associated with poor hydration status. Therefore, there would appear to be no clear basis for refraining from caffeine containing drinks in situations where fluid balance might be compromised.

This post was reviewed by Morgan Hartline, MS, RD, LMNT. This material was funded by USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - SNAP

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Protect Your Drainfield From Soil Compaction

Protect Your Drainfield from Soil Compaction, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights July 2016. http://acreage.unl.edu/enews-july-2016#ProtectYourDrainfield
The drainfield for this home's septic system is easy to spot during a dry summer period. 

By Sharon Skipton, Nebraska Extension Water Quality Educator Emeritus, and Katie Pekarek, Nebraska Extension Educator

Where does the water go when it goes down the drain? when you flush the toilet? If you live on an acreage farm or ranch, there is a good chance you have a septic tank and drainfield (also known as a lateral, leachfield, or soil absorption field) to treat this wastewater. Wastewater flows through a sewer line from the house to the septic tank. It goes through preliminary treatment in the tank; then flows out the tank outlet to a drainfield. The wastewater in the drainfield flows down through filter material (usually gravel) into the soil where final treatment and recycling occurs. A properly designed, installed, and maintained drainfield destroys pathogens and filters out solids before clean water is returned to the environment.

It is important that the soil in the drainfield has enough pore spaces filled with air to create aerobic conditions, where oxygen is present. Aerobic conditions are essential for the microorganisms in the drainfield to effectively break down waste. When the soil is compacted, those air-filled pore spaces are eliminated or reduced and anaerobic (oxygen is not present) conditions develop. Compaction also leads to slower and less efficient infiltration of wastewater from the septic tank.

How can I prevent compaction?
During construction, the drainfield area should be protected from compaction by staking, fencing, posting, or other effective method. The best way to minimize compaction is not to allow equipment to drive on the drainfield site. However, this is may not be possible, so minimizing impact is the next best option. This may be done by utilizing vehicles with tracks to distribute the weight of vehicles.

After the system is built, traffic on the drainfield area by both humans and animals should be avoided. The pounds per square inch of force exerted on the soil surface by walking, grazing, and standing can be significant. Keep pets, horses, and other animals off of the system. Never drive a car or other vehicle across the drainfield. Avoid activity in the drainfield area when the soil is wet as soils that are saturated or nearly saturated compact more than the same soil under dry conditions.

Soil compaction is permanent. Studies demonstrate that after half a century, compaction still affects soils under natural conditions. Recovery time for significant compaction is at least two human generations. Keep your drainfield functioning well and save yourself a headache by preventing soil compaction.

With content from an article by Sara Heger, Ph.D. engineer, researcher and instructor in the Onsite Sewage Treatment Program in the Water Resources Center at the University of Minnesota.

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Stem Girdling Roots - A Common Malady of Trees, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights July 2016. http://acreage.unl.edu/enews-july-2016#SGR
Stem girdling roots are a common cause of tree decline.

Stem Girdling Roots - A Common Malady of Trees

By John Fech, Nebraska Extension Educator - Horticulture

An all-to-common scenario of Midwest landscapes is the slow demise of a shade tree, usually with a thin crown and dying branches.  In many cases, it’s due to roots that grow in a circular fashion around the trunk instead of radiating outward like the spokes of a bicycle wheel. 

In most situations, the cause is the development of circling roots during the production of the tree and the subsequent failure of the landscaper or property owner to spread the roots out at planting time.  These operations are sometimes called “Plunkers”, where the hole is dug, the tree is taken out of the pot and simply “plunked” into the hole without any further attention.  Instead of plunking, time should be taken to carefully spread out or redirect wayward roots into a horizontal orientation.  If the hole is dug to be 2-3 times the size of the root ball, this corrective action can be easily taken and will require only 10 to 15 minutes or so to accomplish.

Stem Girdling Roots - A Common Malady of Trees, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights July 2016. http://acreage.unl.edu/enews-july-2016#SGR
A thin tree canopy, or poor canopy fill, is a common symptom of tree decline and often associated with stem girdling root problems.

 The injury to the tree that occurs is due to the compressing force of the expansion of the root and stem/trunk tissues.  As they grow, they both increase in diameter, finally coming into contact with each other and creating a constriction on the tissues that transport nutrients and water throughout the tree.  Severely girdled tree roots also create a point of structural weakness, causing the tree to be more liable to fail at the ground level.

Unfortunately, once the tree has developed symptoms similar to those depicted in the attached photos, there are no treatments of steps of corrective action; it’s just a matter of time before the tree becomes a liability in the landscape and should be removed.  Extension horticulturists and arborists are often asked if these girdling roots can be cut and separated from the soil to prevent further compressing force on the trunk.  Unfortunately, such an action would create a wound that would allow for colonizing fungi to enter the root tissue and cause a softening of the wood and structural weakness, possibly leading to overall tree failure.

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Emerald Ash Borer – Confirmed in Nebraska

By Sarah Browning, Nebraska Extension Horticulture Educator

Early June finally brought the news Nebraska foresters and horticulturists have been anticipating for several years – confirmation of Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) within the state. Wednesday, June 8th, Nebraska Department of Agriculture confirmed an EAB infestation in Pulaski Park, in southeastern Omaha. A second confirmation from Greenwood, NE in Cass County came the following week.

A Short History of EAB in the United States
It’s been national news since it was first detected in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan in 2002.  Emerald ash borer is a highly invasive insect that has killed millions of trees since its accidental introduction from Asia.   Now EAB is found in 22 states from Massachusetts south to Georgia, and west to Minnesota and Missouri.  Closest to home, EAB was confirmed in Missouri 2008, Iowa 2010, Kansas 2012 and Colorado 2013.  The nearest confirmed sites are Kansas City, MO and Creston, IA.  It is inevitable that EAB will eventually make its way into Nebraska, probably within the next few years. 

All ash species are susceptible, including white, green and black ash.  Mountain ash is not affected by EAB, because despite its common name it is not a true member of the ash family.  Popular ash cultivars ‘Autumn Purple’, ‘Marshall’s Seedless’ and ‘Patmore’ are true members of the ash family and are susceptible.

Ash trees can be identified by several unique characteristics.  All have compound leaves, typically with 5-11 leaflets.  Edges of the leaflets can be either toothed or smooth.  Ash trees have an opposite branching pattern, with leaves developing opposite each other on the stem.  Ash seeds are flat, narrow elongated ovals and develop in drooping clusters. 

EAB Identification
Adult beetles are small, only about ½ inch long, long and slender, metallic green in color.  They emerge from infested trees in early summer, June and July.  Adult females lay eggs in the bark of branches or the main trunk. 

Larvae are borers and tunnel just under the bark after hatching.  They are flat, cream-colored and legless.  They have a brown head, and their bodies are divided into 10 segments, which are bell-shaped near the back end of the insect.  At maturity, they reach 1½ inches in length.  After pupating into adults, the beetles chew their way out of the tree, leaving behind a D-shaped hole. 

Emerald Ash Borer Confirmed in Nebraska, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights July 2016. http://acreage.unl.edu/enews-july-2016#EAB

Branch dieback, starting in the upper canopy, is one symptom of EAB infestation. Image from Eric R. Day, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Bugwood.org.

Symptoms
EAB attacks healthy trees, with eggs laid in the upper twigs, secondary branches, and main trunk.  One of the first symptoms seen in affected trees is branch dieback in the top 1/3 of a tree.  As the infestation progresses, trees often respond by sending up suckers, or adventitious branches, from the base. 

Inspect trees for the presence of D-shaped holes.  The exit holes are small, only about 1/8 inch across. 

As insect tunneling occurs under the bark, sections of bark die and often crack.  These cracks will occur vertically, or up and down the trunk, over a dead bark section.  Woodpeckers are often attracted to infested trees, and peck into the bark in search of borer larvae.  So woodpecker damage in an ash tree could also point to a developing EAB infestation. 

Trees under attack by EAB do not die immediately.  Healthy trees use their resources to kill as many of the invading immature borers as possible.  Typically symptoms of branch dieback don't become obvious until the tree has been infested for three or more years, so there is time to treat infested trees once symptoms are noticed. 

Future Considerations
If you have healthy ash trees in your landscape, keep them healthy through good watering and mulching, and inspect them on a regular basis for 1) branch dieback in the tree top, 2) suckers developing on the tree’s trunk, 3) woodpecker damage and 4) D-shaped holes.  It is not recommended to make chemical applications for tree protection unless the insect has been confirmed within 15 miles of your home. 

Nebraska Department of Agriculture has issued a quarantine prohibiting ash nursery stock from leaving the quarantine area. The quarantine also regulates the movement of hardwood firewood and mulch, ash timber products and green waste material out of Douglas, Sarpy, Cass, Washington and Dodge counties to assist in the prevention of human-assisted spread of the pest into un-infested areas. A USDA quarantine is also expected and NDA and USDA staff will work with the public and impacted industries to ensure compliance of the quarantines. NDA staff will continue to set and monitor EAB traps across the state to monitor for additional infestations.

Emerald Ash Borer Confirmed in Nebraska, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights July 2016. http://acreage.unl.edu/enews-july-2016#EAB

Moving firewood infested with EAB is one way insects have traveled long distances. Image from International Society of Arboriculture, International Society of Arboriculture, Bugwood.org  

The Nebraska EAB working groups offers the following suggestions to help prevent the human-assisted spread of the pest:

  • Use locally sourced firewood, burning it in the same county where you purchased it. Firewood is a transportation vessel for the pest.
  • Only high value ash tress located within 15 miles of a known infestation should be considered for treatment. Trees that are experiencing declining health should be considered for removal.
  • If you feel you have located an EAB infestation, please report it to the Nebraska Department of Agriculture at (402) 471-2351, the Nebraska Forest Service at (402) 472-2944 or your local USDA office at (402) 434-2345.

The outlook for trees of importance, or those with significant value to your home, is not completely bleak.  There are chemical treatments available with a good track record of EAB protection.  Trunk injection and soil drench applications are the methods of application. While homeowners can be successful in treating small trees with soil drench products, large trees may be better protected by injections done by a certified, commercial arborist. 

EAB Treatments
Owners of ash trees throughout Nebraska may be anxious to begin treatments, but the recommendation is still to wait until EAB has been found within 15 miles of your location. The chances that your tree will be the first one infested in your area is very low, especially if it is healthy and vigorous. The current treatment consideration zone extends from Fort Calhoun to Plattsmouth and west to southeastern Saunders County and northeast Lincoln.

The 15-mile recommendation strikes a balance between protecting valuable trees and limiting the negative effects of unnecessary treatments. Treating trees outside of the 15-mile zone provides little or no benefit to trees, yet exposes humans and the environment to pesticides, wastes money and, in the case of trunk injections, causes unjustified tree damage.

Keep in mind, EAB does not kill trees immediately. It takes a few years of continued infestation before the tree begins to decline. Often insects have been in a tree for 2-3 years before signs of decline are noticed. Trees with 30% or less canopy dieback can successfully be treated and fully recover. Trees with over 50% canopy dieback, however, are less likely to recover. 

EAB treatments can be done in several ways – trunk injections and implants, soil applications, and trunk sprays. Each method has advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to under which treatment method is best for your tree’s specific needs.

Soil Applications
Soil drench products are easy to apply, don’t require any special equipment or wounding of the tree and provide good control on young trees - those under 22 inches diameter at breast height (DBH), which is measured at 4 feet above soil level.

Soil applications cannot be used in areas where surface water is present, on sandy soil where leaching potential is high, or areas with a shallow water table. Soil applications should also not be used in areas where the roots of flowering plants could take up the product and impact bees or other pollinators. Twelve-month control is provided.

Imidacloprid applications require 4-6 weeks for uptake and distribution through the tree; dinotefuran require 2-3 weeks.  This is important to keep in mind when timing your application.

Emerald Ash Borer Confirmed in Nebraska, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights July 2016. http://acreage.unl.edu/enews-july-2016#EAB

Trunk injections are one method of EAB treatment. Image from David Cappaert, Bugwood.org.

Trunk Injections and Implants
Injection and implant application methods provide the best control in large trees, those over 22 inches DBH. Another advantage is they can be used on sites where soil drench products cannot or where they are not practical, such as wet, sandy, compacted or restricted soil environments. Or where blooming ornamentals are planted beneath the tree.  

Three to four weeks are required for the product to move throughout the tree from the time of application before the tree is completely protected. One or two years control is provided depending on the product used. Special equipment is needed for application of some products.  

Trunk injections and implants can effectively control pests, but they do have drawbacks, specifically they cause damage to the tree. Most are applied by drilling holes into the tree’s trunk, which opens up the trunk to insect pests and decay fungi. Drilling may also break through internal barriers within the trunk created by the tree to wall off internal decay. Breaking this barrier allows decay to spread into healthy wood.

In addition, the pesticide itself can cause internal damage that may accumulate over years of repeated injections and potentially kill the tree, even if the pest is controlled.

If injections are used, trees should not be re-treated until the injection wounds seal over with new tissue. Injection treatments using small, shallow holes and smaller amounts of product are less damaging.

Trunk Sprays
Trunk sprays are a quick acting method of protecting infested trees; they are made to the tree’s lower 5-6 feet of trunk using a common garden sprayer. Insecticide penetrates the bark and moves throughout the tree. Applications are quick and easy, requiring no special equipment, and don’t wound the tree. When applied correctly, the chemical does not enter the soil where it can be taken up by non-target plants. 

The Nebraska Forest Service has developed a comprehensive set of publications to help Nebraskan's understand and manage EAB, including those below. Find them online at http://nfs.unl.edu/eab.

Information is also available online at www.emeraldashborer.info.  If you suspect your ash tree has EAB, contact the Nebraska Department of Agriculture at (402) 471-2394.

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Sudden Wilt and Death of Cucumber, Squash and Melons in the Vegetable Garden

By Sarah Browning, Nebraska Extension Horticulture Educator

Sudden wilting and death of cucumber, squash and melons in the late summer garden is a pretty common problem with three common culprits - squash bugs, squash vine borer and bacterial wilt. Symptoms of these three pests can be similar at first glance. Initially plants wilt during the day, but recover at night. Eventually plants don't recover so well, stay wilted and develop yellow or brown leaves. Then plants completely wilt, turn brown and die. Often this process happens very quickly, in only a matter of days.

Sudden Wilt and Death of Cucurbits, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights July 2016. http://acreage.unl.edu/enews-july-2016#SquashBug

Squash bug adult. 

Squash bugs are a common pest of cucurbits, with a preference first for winter squash and pumpkins, followed by gourds, summer squash and melons, and occassionally cucumbers.  Among winter squash hubbards and marrows are most severely effected. Both adults and nymphs feed on plant leaves and stems by sucking sap from the plant tissues.  While feeding, they inject a toxic substance into the plant, which causes yellowing of the leaf foliage and eventually wilting and death of the plant.  This condition is called Anasa wilt of cucurbits.

Adult squash bugs are 5/8 inches long and approximately 1/3 inch wide.  The adults are winged, brownish black insects, sometimes mottled with gray or light brown on the back, and have a flat back.  They have an unpleasant odor when crushed. Adults overwinter in leaf litter and debris, emerging in spring as the cucurbit vines begin to grow.  After mating, females lay clusters of brick-red eggs in the angles between leaf veins on the underside of the leaves.  Hatching occurs in 7-14 days. Young nymphs have a green abdomen, and crimson head, thorax and legs.  Older nymphs are light gray with black legs. 

One generation of insect occurs each year, but the extended egg-laying period of female insects results in all life stages occurring throughout the summer months. Squash bug adults and nymphs hide on the undersides of leaves, near the crown of the plant, under clods of dirt or any other protective cover.  They are gregarious, feeding in groups, and quickly move away when disturbed. Early detection of squash bugs is vital to effective control.  Adults are very difficult to kill and can kill entire plantings if not controlled. 

Squash Bugs in Home Gardens, University of Minnesota Extension

Sudden Wilt and Death of Cucurbits, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights July 2016. http://acreage.unl.edu/enews-july-2016#SquashBug

Squash vine borer larva. Image from Jim Jasinski, Ohio State University, Bugwood.org.

Squash vine borer is another common pest of cuurbits. Adults are a black and orange day-flying moth, but the damaging stage is the immature caterpillar - a plump, cream colored caterpillar with a dark brown head. Adults lay eggs mainly at the base of the plant's main stem. Once they hatch, the young caterpillars tunnel into plant stems (mainly squash, pumpkins, and gourds) and their feeding restricts movement of water and nutrients. The point where a borer enters a stem gardeners may be decayed and have a sawdust-like frass around it. Infested plants are weakened or die; depending on the number of borers.

Squash Vine Borer Management in Home Gardens, University of Minnesota Extension

Sudden Wilt and Death of Cucurbits, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights July 2016. http://acreage.unl.edu/enews-july-2016#SquashBug

Bacterial wilt is transmitted to healthy plants through the feeding of spotted and striped cucumber beetles. Image from Gerald Holmes, California Polytechnic Institute University at San Luis Obispo, Bugwood.org.

Bacterial wilt is the final culprit for sudden wilt and death of cucurbits; watermelons and a few cultivars of squash and cucumber are resistant. Bacterial wilt is transmitted to healthy plants through the feeding of spotted and striped cucumber beetles, small greenish-yellow beetles with black stripes or spots. They migrate into Nebraska on southerly winds in early July. One to three generations of cucumber beetles are produced each growing season. Infestations of cucumber beetles are quite high in late summer and fall, but beetles perish with winter freezes.

Once bacterial wilt is introduced in plants, it reproduces within the plant's xylem and blocks up the water conducting tisses resulting in wilting and plant death. Once plants are infected there is no effective disease control.

Bacterial Wilt of Cucurbits, Nebraska Extension
Cucumber Beetles in Vegetable Gardens, University of Minnesota Extension

Control

  • Scouting
    • Squash bug - Begin inspecting plants for signs of adults and egg masses as soon as plants emerge in spring.  One egg mass per plant indicates control measures are needed.  Begin control as soon as insects are found, and prevent large populations from developing. 
    • Squash vine borer - Inspect the base of the main vine for holes or sawdust-like frass, which indicates squash vine borer larvae have tunneled into the stems of your plants.
    • Bacterial wilt - Look for striped and spotted cucumber beetles feeding in cucubit flowers as soon as plants begin to bloom. Two or more beetles per plant, on 25% or more of your plants indicates control is needed.
  • Manual Control
    • Squash bug - Home gardeners can handpick adult squash bugs and crush egg masses to reduce insect numbers in the garden.  Place boards under plants, to provide aggregation sites for the insects.  This can simplify collecting and destroying of the insects.
    • Squash vine borer - Physically remove borers by slitting stems when borer activity is noticed and removing them. Bury the cut section of stem. Sometimes the stem will heal together and develop new roots at the wound site.
    • Bacterial wilt - Prevent cucumber beetles from feeding on cucurbits by protecting them with row cover fabric until plants begin to bloom.
  • Chemical Control
    • Squash bug - Adults are difficult to kill with insecticides, so control should be targeted at the nymphs to prevent them from surviving.  Homeowners can spray plants with an insecticide, such as Sevin (carbaryl) or Eight (permethrin), being sure to target the undersides of leaves.  Reapply the insecticide as directed on the label.
    • Squash vine borer - applying insecticides labeled for vegetables during egg laying, usually about the time vines begin to run, and re-apply every 7 to 10 days for 3 to 5 weeks.
    • Bacterial wilt - There is no chemical control for bacterial wilt. Control beetles to prevent spread of the disease. Remove and destroy infected plants.
  • Cultural Control
    • Garden sanitation - To minimize squash bug and squash vine borer overwinter sites remove and bury or burn all garden debris in the fall.  Mow vegetation around the garden or planting field to minimize insect habitat.
    • Bacterial wilt - Plant resistant varieties.

Because cucurbits rely on honey bees and other insect pollinators for fruit production, select insecticides with low persistence and treat crops when pollinators are not active, such as in the early morning or late evening. When using any pesticide, always read and follow all directions and precautions on the label.

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