An early symptom of bacterial wilt is drooping leaves on squash or cucumber vines — even when the plants have been well watered. This happens because the wilt bacteria clog the vascular systems of plants, blocking the flow of water and nutrients from the roots to the leaves. If infected stems are cut open, they may release a milky sap. As the disease spreads, leaves turn brown. Eventually the entire plant shrivels and dies.
Bacterial wilt can occur in all plants in the squash family except watermelons; another type of bacterial wilt can infect tomatoes and beans. There’s a direct link between bacterial wilt and insects. The bacterium overwinters in the gut of cucumber beetles and grasshoppers; when these insects emerge the following spring, they spread the bacterium as they feed. The severity of disease is typically proportional to the amount of feeding by the host insects.
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