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Access Type

Open Access

Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded

January 2008

Month Degree Awarded




Striped cucumber beetle, Acalymma vittatum F., is the primary insect pest of cucurbit crops in the Northeastern United States. Adult beetles colonize squash crops from field borders, causing feeding damage at the seedling stage and transmitting the bacteria Erwinia tracheiphila Hauben et al. Conventional control methods rely on insecticide applications to the entire field, but surrounding main crops with a more attractive perimeter could reduce reliance on insecticides. Acalymma vittatum demonstrates a marked preference for Blue Hubbard squash (Cucurbita maxima Duchesne) over butternut squash (C. moschata Duchesne). Given this preference, Blue Hubbard squash has the potential to be an effective perimeter trap crop. We evaluated this system in commercial butternut fields in 2003 and 2004, comparing fields using perimeter trap cropping with Blue Hubbard to conventionally managed fields. In 2003 we used a foliar insecticide to control beetles in the trap crop borders, and in 2004 we compared systemic and foliar insecticide treatments for the trap crop borders. We found that using a trap crop system reduced or eliminated the need to spray the main crop area, reducing insecticide use by up to 94% compared to conventional control methods, with no increase in herbivory or beetle numbers. We also surveyed the growers who participated in these experiments and found a high level of satisfaction with the effectiveness and simplicity of the system. These results suggest that this method of pest control is both effective and simple enough in its implementation to have high potential for adoption amongst growers.


Winter squash is a vital agricultural commodity in many parts of the world. In the Northeastern United States, the primary insect pest of these crops is the striped cucumber beetle, Acalymma vittatum F, which has traditionally been controlled with multiple full field pesticide applications. Recent studies have indicated that using a Blue Hubbard squash perimeter trap crop system (PTC hereafter) can reduce insecticide use by >90% in butternut squash, the primary winter squash grown in this region. This method involves dedicating a portion of the field to the trap crop. Despite the savings in insecticide costs, growers may be reluctant to give up field space for Blue Hubbard squash, which has a limited market. Finding a more marketable trap crop than Blue Hubbard would lower the barrier for adoption of this system. We tested eight varieties of three species of cucurbits for attractiveness to beetles relative to Blue Hubbard and butternut squash, and chose buttercup squash as the most promising replacement for Blue Hubbard. We compared the effect of a buttercup border, Blue Hubbard border, or control (no border) on beetle numbers, herbivory, and insecticide use. We found that buttercup squash performed equally well as Blue Hubbard as a trap crop, with up to 97% reduction in the total field area requiring insecticide compared to control fields. This study confirms the effectiveness of PTC systems and offers growers a more marketable trap crop.

First Advisor

Lynn S Adler

Second Advisor

Ruth V. Hazzard