picklewormPickleworm on a yellow zucchini Photo: Scot Nelson

Despite its name, the pickleworm's favorite meal is squash, both winter and summer types. These pinkish or green caterpillars feed on the blossoms, stems, and developing fruits of squash, cucumbers, cantaloupe and some pumpkins.

Pickleworms overwinter in tropical zones and as adult moths they migrate northward in early summer to lay their eggs on susceptible plants. Pickleworm larvae feed on flowers and tunnel into young fruits before pupating. With two to four generations per year, pickleworms are year-round pests in the southernmost part of the U.S. They can migrate as far north as the Carolinas during the summer.

Prevention and Control

  • Plant as early as possible so crops are harvested before late summer, when damage is usually greatest.
  • In southern areas of Florida and Texas, pull up and destroy vines and leftover fruits after harvest, along with nearby weeds, to minimize opportunities for the pest to overwinter.

Last updated: 03/15/2024