Bacterial wilt is a disease that causes plants in the squash family to wilt.
Bacterial wilt is an infection by the Erwinia tracheiphila bacteria. It affects cucumbers and muskmelons the most but can also infect pumpkins and squash.
Symptoms of bacterial wilt
Damage caused by bacterial wilt looks like feeding damage caused by squash bugs. As bacteria multiply within vascular tissue (veins), they clog the xylem, which makes the plant wilt. The sap of an infected plant will be milky-colored and able to create a slimy string. (Ew!) This wilting occurs more slowly than the fungal disease sudden wilt.
Striped cucumber beetles and spotted cucumber beetles carry this disease. The Erwinia bacteria that cause this disease can live in the gut of their carriers for quite a long time. The bacteria can be transmitted as these pests feed and through contact with frass.
Bacterial wilt treatment
Unfortunately, there is no effective treatment. Once a plant is infected, it is too late. Since the infected plant poses a health risk to its neighbors, remove it and throw it in the trash. Sanitize any tools that come into contact with the plant with a household bathroom cleaner. To reduce the chance of infection, controlling beetle populations and maintaining healthy plants are your best bet.
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