Winter squash is a vital agricultural commodity worldwide. In the Northeastern United States, the primary insect pest is the striped cucumber beetle, Acalymma vittatum F. Using a Blue Hubbard squash (Cucurbita maxima Duchesne) perimeter trap crop system can reduce insecticide use by >90% in butternut squash (C. moschata Poir), the primary winter squash grown in this region. Despite the savings in insecticide costs, growers may be reluctant to give up field space for a perimeter crop of Blue Hubbard squash, which comprises only 5% of the winter squash market in New England as compared with 19% for buttercup squash. Finding a more marketable trap crop 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. We compared the effect of a buttercup border, Blue Hubbard border, or control (no border) on beetle numbers, herbivory, insecticide use, pollination, and pollen limitation in the main crop. We found that buttercup squash performed equally well as Blue Hubbard as a trap crop, with 97% reduction in total insecticide use compared with control fields. Honey bees (Apis mellifera L.) and squash bees (Peponapis pruinosa Say) were the predominant pollinators, and border treatments did not affect visitation. Hand pollination did not increase reproduction or yield, indicating that natural pollination was sufficient for full yield. This study confirms the effectiveness of perimeter trap crop systems and offers growers a more marketable trap crop for managing cucumber beetle damage.
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