Cucumber Beetles are insects measuring about 1/4 inch in length. They may be striped, banded or spotted, and they are black and either yellow or yellowish-green in color. While their name suggests that they feed exclusively on vegetable plants, Cucumber Beetles are actually a common pest of flowering plants, including African Violets. Though they prefer the flowers of Violets, they will also feed on their leaves. If left untreated, Cucumber Beetles will strip your Violets of their flowers and foliage.
If your African Violet has this symptom, it probably has Cucumber Beetles.
If possible, remove Cucumber Beetles by hand. For heavier infestations, you may need to spray with Malathion (1 teaspoon of Malathion 50 per 4 liters of water). Please note that Malathion may discolor the flowers of African Violets. If this happens, do not be overly concerned. The discoloration is only temporary and will cease as new flowers open.
As an alternative to traditional chemical treatments, try spraying with Neem (Azadirachtin). Neem is a substance which has natural insecticidal properties, and according to currently available research, it is biodegradable and non-toxic. When sprayed on African Violets, it discourages Cucumber Beetles by making the plant unpalatable. Though Neem does have some systemic effect in plants, spray it as you would other contact insecticides, being sure to cover those areas of the plant where Cucumber Beetles attack.
When working outside, always change clothes before working with indoor plants. Cucumber Beetles may get trapped in clothing where they can go undetected until they find their way to your African Violets.
Important Note on the Use of Pesticides
Please note that almost all pesticides are formulated for specific uses and conditions. When applied incorrectly, pesticides can cause ill health or damage to plants. Therefore, when using any kind of pesticide or chemical treatment, always apply as indicated on the product label.
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