How to Get Rid of Pickleworms Naturally

How to Get Rid of Pickleworms Naturally

You can get rid of pickleworms by feeding them something They love.

Since these pests thrive in rotting algae, you need to feed it every day. Snorkeling or diving can help you locate places where you can feed it.

So, do you know about how to get rid of pickleworms naturally?

Pickleworms are tiny worms that feed on algae and dead plants.

They usually feast on seaweed and algae that float in shallow waters. Garden owners often notice these pests in their backyards.

They can destroy plants and crops if not addressed immediately.

Let’s explore more now!

What’s a pickleworm?

Pickleworm larvae are the larval stage of marine polychaete worms.

This common bug wreaks havoc on summer gardens, especially when temperatures rise.

Cantaloupes, cucumbers, and squash are susceptible to this pest, and gardeners often leave them to rot on the vine because of lack of time or lack of resources.

Winter squash and watermelon, however, are relatively safe from the pest’s appetite and will thrive during the growing season.

They are known as rindworms on cantaloupes, muskmelons, and cucumbers.

Caterpillars may burrow through flowers, fruit, and stems of plants.

Their frass, or waste, may often be found in and around the flower head.

Pickleworms may be difficult to identify to the untrained eye because of their small size and lack of color.

Larvae that have hatched from eggs look exactly like adult worms.

Younger larvae have a row of tiny, black, elevated spots on their body.

Mature larvae are pale yellow in color with a row of tiny dots along their body.

Pickleworms spend the winter in soil or in plant debris, and emerge from these spots in early Spring to mate and lay eggs on the undersides of leaves of susceptible plants.

Following the mild weather, the females lay eggs in the daytime and guard the eggs until they hatch into larvae during night hours.

How to Identify Pickleworms

Flying Moths

Depending on temperature, food, and weather they will emerge during the summer with maturity in 7 to 10 days.

People who are inexperienced at identifying insects may mistake a squash beetle for a squash bug and vice versa.

They mistakenly believe that the adult beetle resembles a large stink bug while in fact the squash bug is more colorful and patterned and is much smaller in size.

As a result, it’s beneficial to know what the adults look like so that you can identify a pest insect by its adult form and not by its immature form.

If they only see half of the image, they may think the bug they observe is a beetle when in reality, its a stink bug.


Pickleworms are easily identified because they look like worms.

They range in color from pale orange to dark orange to dark brown; some may have red or yellow stripes running across them.

As they approach transformation into adult moths, the larvae begin to shed their color and their body becomes translucent.

Pickleworm larvae are very active and can crawl quickly over leaves.

They may be somewhat yellowish or whitish in color.

Their head is darker than the thorax and abdomen and their wings are brown and gray in color.

Younger pickleworms are distinguished mainly by the presence of fine, dark, wispy hairs that cover their bodies.

These appear as small dots on older pickleworms.

Pickleworm Life Cycle

Pickleworm Life Cycle


The adult pickleworm moth is a little larger than a quarter and is black in color with red eyespots on its wings and on portions of its abdomen and thorax.

The wings are primarily iridescent shades of brown, gray, black and orange.

A clump of brush-like bristles covers its abdomen and the thorax is composed of small, dark, smooth scales.

Pickleworm moths are quiescent throughout the winter months and emerge in the spring to mate and lay eggs.


Adult moths deposit microscopic eggs directly on plant surfaces, usually near or on the tips of branches or other foliage.

Eggs are white at maturity and turn a pale yellow as they age before drying up and falling off the plant.

The eggs hatch in a week and the larvae descend to the soil where they burrow to depths of 5 to 20 cm in search of food.


Pickleworm larvae are tiny and whitish in color with a brown head.

However, as they age, they get darker in color and appear darker than the soil they inhabit.

The color of an insect can depend on environmental conditions and, in the case of pickleworm larvae, the color of their food source when they burrow into the soil to feed.

Larvae may grow to more than 3 cm in length before they burrow into the soil where they remain for the next several weeks.

Before pupating, pickleworms spend two to four weeks molting and feeding on the roots of their host plant before pupating into a winged adult.


Pupation normally takes place in late spring or early summer after four to six weeks as a larva.

Pupae are brown and attached to plant roots with silken threads that blend in well with surrounding soil.

A pickleworm’s life cycle may be completed in 30 days, but environmental conditions such as temperature, rainfall and nutrient availability can affect pickleworm growth and development.

Where Do Pickleworms Come From?

Because pickleworms are tropical insects, they prefer warm climates with high humidity and temperatures between 20 and 30°C during the daytime.

They cannot tolerate frost or prolonged periods of freezing temperatures.

During the day, pickleworms emerge from their host plant to feed on the roots, then retreat and burrow into the soil at night to pupate.

The majority of moths will travel only short distances from their host plants to mate and lay eggs.

They deposit their eggs on the undersides of leaves or on plants near their trees or shrubs.

What Do Pickleworms Eat?

What Do Pickleworms Eat?

Pickleworms consume the stems, vines, leaves or roots of their host trees or shrubs but prefer roots of deciduous trees and shrubs.

Because they demolish the whole plant, whole oak trees may be killed or pruned to stumps by a large population of pickleworms.

Pickleworms may also be found in Gherkin, Winter Savory or Wormwood growing nearby.

Pickleworms seldom cause enough harm to threaten the economic viability of their hosts.

Are Pickleworms Dangerous to Humans?

Pickleworms are not thought to pose any risk to humans.

They are just a nuisance that we deal with in an organic garden or farm.

You’d be surprised how many vegetables you grow that bring bugs on them.

However, you should avoid consuming them or larvae as they may cause allergic reactions in some people, and may cause stomach pain if ingested in large quantities.

Rinse your fruits, check the soil for worms before planting vegetables.

Signs of Pickleworm Infestation

When pickleworm infestations are severe, you may notice fresh holes in stems and branches, and seedlings may have chewed-up roots.

Pickleworms will cause harm to practically every part of the plant they feed on, but they normally spare flowers and seeds of fruits and vegetables.

Also, they cause no harm to trees and shrubs as their feeding is restricted to roots. They burrow into the stem or the plant’s trunk and feed on the plant roots.

This will not only result in an unsightly plant but will also preclude any growth other than what occurs in the aboveground portion of the plant.

There is a significant economic effect – any hefty crop loss will cause financial loss and anger many farmers this year.

The majority of the damage will go unnoticed until harvest time, but that will come too late for the farmer to recover from the damage already done.

They will hop from tree to tree and will require close observation prior to and during harvest season.

They will eventually harm the plant’s photosynthetic system through the plant’s roots.

Natural Ways to Get Rid of Pickleworms

Natural Ways to Get Rid of Pickleworms

Spinosad and Neem

Neem compounds are botanical pesticides that are effective against many common soil-borne pests including: whiteflies, aphids, mealybugs and scale insects.

Spinosad is a microbial insecticide that results from a fermentation process by the soil bacterium Saccharopolyspora spinosa that produces spinosyn A as the antifungal agent. By itself, spinosad is toxic to bacteria, fungi and insects.

Therefore, when mixed with other pesticides or miticides, it enhances the pesticide’s insecticidal activity.

Neem Oil and Spinosad have natural insecticidal and pesticidal properties that are effective against a variety of insects, such as aphids, thrips, spider mites, whiteflies and squash bugs.

Spinosad is produced by microbial fermentation and is a naturally occurring soil microorganism derived from a soil-dwelling actinomycete bacterium.

BT spray

Spinosad and Bacillus thuringiensis are two insecticides that act in different ways to repel and kill parasites.

They may also be used with other methods like traps or physical removal methods like handpicking or vacuuming.

Make sure you thoroughly wash any produce that comes in contact with the sprays to prevent any contamination.

Personally, I prefer BT spray because it contains BT and Neem together which kill insects on contact.

However, after caterpillars have tunneled within the leaves of the plant, the sprays will not reach them.

Natural Predators

Because pickleworms are continuously laying eggs until the point that mature larvae are found feeding on the leaves of the plant, there is not an immediate need to react after the first of the caterpillars have been found.

They begin by feeding on the leaves of the host plant, then move to the lower surface of the leaves to develop into pupae.

They’re then lurking in the leafy parts of the plant or among the debris on the ground waiting to hatch and feed on more plants.

As a result, predators that feed on the immature stages may have time to tackle the caterpillars before the plant is affected too much.

Pickleworm control may be aided by introducing natural predators such as certain wasps and flies which feed on the mature larvae.

The only trustworthy predators are parasitic wasps, although they usually require other insects to feed their young.

Monitor and Handpick

Look for eggs among fresh leaf litter in the spring and early summer when they hatch on the underside of leaves.

Pickleworms may be eliminated by handpicking them when young.

However, adult worms are difficult to locate and are often large and very difficult to remove without causing damage to the plant.

To stimulate roots, soil should be opened to sunlight and air before planting.

Plant Resistant Varieties

Because squash is the pickleworm’s favorite meal, you may choose to plant squash varieties that are more resistant to the pest in order to minimize damage to the rest of your garden.

In addition to choosing resistant varieties, plants should be spaced sufficiently apart to prevent the larvae from crawling from one plant to another to pupate.

When it comes to cucumbers, parthenocarpic varieties do not produce viable seed, and therefore will not produce any seeds for the pickleworm to mature on.

Fruit Bagging

An in-field trial to examine the efficiency of paper bags as a management tool for suppression of seed-corn weevils (Sitophilus granarius) in watermelon.

Furthermore, bagging had no effect on seed germination of watermelon seeds.

Plant Extra Fruit

Consider growing more fruit than your family can eat or give away; the extra fruit can then be processed or canned.

If your location is prone to these caterpillars, grow an extra fruit crop that can be stored until conditions are more conducive to them.

But be cautious because this method is not environmentally friendly.

You may just be causing more caterpillars to hatch in more areas.

Weed Control and Sanitation

Following harvest, it is a recommended cultural practice to remove and destroy all infested plant material and any remaining eggs to prevent reinfestation with the pest and possible spread of host.

Maintaining a clean and weed-free environment in and around your fields will aid in controlling insect pests.

Maintain the Cleanliness of Your Garden.

Removing unnecessary plant components might reduce a pest’s access to plants, structures, or other areas of your garden maintained by the gardener.

This may assist remove any larvae that have already hatched and prevent further hatching or increase a pest’s ability to spread or establish in a new area.

While a tidy garden isn’t immune to insect attack, some insects such as cucumber beetles and squash bugs are more likely to target messy gardens.

Screen Protectors

Floating row coverings have been demonstrated to be an effective means of reducing damage by pickleworms in vegetable crops.

Row coverings should be put shortly after planting, before swelling occurs of the pickleworm population.

The floating row covers should be removed before the soil temperature goes below 10°C in the autumn, after harvesting.

Floating row coverings are simple to use and may be left in place throughout the season.

However, they should be removed when crops require certain cultural practices, such as pollination or transplanting.

Organize your Fruit.

Fruit bagging may be another potential solution to manage cucumber beetles if you are unable to remove infested fruits from the garden.

Cover your fruits with small mesh bags to prevent adult cucumber beetles from laying eggs on fruits or feeding on developing fruits.

These mesh bags are lightweight and can be easily stored in a cool, dry place.

Purchase reusable bags from a home improvement store or make your own from nylon pantyhose or chicken wire.

Bird netting works nicely as a bug barrier between the fruits and the soil , but be sure to choose netting small enough to not trap small insects.

Plant Your Seeds Early.

Some experts propose growing cucumbers in the spring when temperatures are mild as early as March.

This will be a good solution if cucumber beetles aren’t a big problem where you are located, as you need to have preventive actions before fruit set and fruit drop.

Pickleworms, for example, are active in the garden in Florida as early as late winter when the soil temperature is above 10°C.

Determine the ideal time to plant your cucumber seeds according to the conditions in your area.

Seek Expert Assistance

If you can’t get rid of the cucumber beetle problems on your own, seek assistance from a professional gardener or your local county extension service.

Look for firms that have a guarantee so that you are not wasting your money on treatments that won’t help your problem.

Also See: How to Get Rid of Cucumber Beetles Naturally


To keep these pests away from your backyard or garden, you need to feed them with something they really love—rotting algae!

Snorkeling or diving can help you find places where you can feed it every day. Just collect some rotten algae and put it in their habitat so they can feast on it!

In addition, avoid planting any vegetables in your garden near any type of weed or plants that could be feeding them.

Also, keep your garden clean by picking up any fallen leaves and dead wood that can attract these pests so they won’t hang around and eat your crops.

While a tidy garden isn’t immune to insect attack, some insects such as cucumber beetles and squash bugs are more likely to target messy gardens.

Author Ethan