Imagine Biting Into A Pickle and Finding a Worm

Pickle Worms

Pickle Worms

Farmers in Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina grow 250 million pounds of cucumbers each year which are processed into pickles. The most troublesome insect pest on cucumbers in these states is the pickleworm. The pickleworm is a tropical pest and lives year-round in Florida and moves up the coast in the summer. Each female lays about 350 eggs on cucumber and related plants. The pickleworm larvae bore into the cucumbers where they eat out a large cavity which is contaminated with the worm’s excrement. Frequent insecticide sprays are needed to prevent the pickleworm from entering and contaminating pickles.

“A major insect problem, pickleworms follow spring north each year to lay eggs in the 50,000 acres of cucumbers in North and South Carolina. As summer progresses, the insect becomes a problem in states farther north.

The adult pickleworm moths lay eggs in the fields. Larvae hatch and eat their way into young cucumbers.

Growers start spraying their fields with potent pesticides almost every week for the moths’ 6- to 7-week season as soon as the nighttime temperature reaches 60°F—the temperature the moths follow north.

Why the worm witch hunt? It’s because pickle packers will refuse to accept a truckload of cucumbers if they notice even one with a pickleworm hole. (Understandably enough—imagine biting into a pickle and finding…)”

Author: Kaplan, K.
Affiliation: ARS.
Title: Less Pickleworm Pesticide.
Source: Agricultural Research. 1989. June.