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I've seen advice in books and online that I can deal with my striped cucumber beetle infestation by vacuuming. Unfortunately they don't get into details. I'm ready to drag the shop vac into the garden, but I'm wondering if there are any gotchas... and I'm a little worried about too much power ripping the leaves right off the plants instead of just the bugs.

Has anybody here done this successfully? Anything I should watch out for? Any tips to ensure success?

(If this works, it would be great -- I try to avoid spraying as much as possible, and I don't want to kill bees/beneficial pollinators with pyrethrin.)

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Would this work better with the small rechargeable vacuum cleaners? A new one in good condition should have enough power to be useful without causing too much damage. My experience is that the batteries seem to age quickly - so I don't think an old one would be powerful enough. –  winwaed Jul 11 '11 at 16:07
    
I have never had Cucumber beetles. I have had japanese beetles on my grapes though. In my experience removing beetles by hand is futile. I have had success using traps though. Maybe this link will help (never tried this particular trap myself) forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/cornucop/… Another link: extension.usu.edu/files/publications/factsheet/… lots more at google: striped cucumber beetle trap –  JoeHobbit Jul 11 '11 at 16:42
    
@win - Good thought. I think I've got a little 12V car-powered vac kicking around somewhere. I'll maybe try that first. At any rate, I'll test this strategy on one of the many volunteer pumpkins to see if it works without shredding leaves. –  bstpierre Jul 11 '11 at 17:03
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@Joe - My experience with traps seems like you attract them more than you kill them, and I try to stay organic. –  bstpierre Jul 11 '11 at 17:06
    
@bstpierre, an other method you might wish to look into (totally organic), beneficial nematodes, when applied at the correct time of year (& the right kind), these predators can perform wonders in the garden... –  Mike Perry Jul 11 '11 at 17:14
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1 Answer

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Just stumbled across the following article:

Below I have extracted what I believe to be the most relevant points related to the question asked.

Abstract

Field vacuuming is a novel concept for pest management in organic cropping systems. Though heavily promoted, it has not been widely adopted.

Field Vacuums for Insect Pest Management

Among the tools that have drawn interest are field vacuums, which suck pests from the growing crop and "batter" them to death.

Growers and researchers have experimented with suction devices on a number of horticultural crops, including lettuce, strawberries, artichokes, grapes, potatoes, celery, and cole crops. The most successful application of insect vacuums appears to be control of lygus bugs in strawberries.

Sometimes, the vacuums simply weren’t adequate for the job. When they tried them for aphid control on lettuce, California growers found that the pest hid mostly in the lower parts of the plant and escaped - a particularly serious problem because the aphids vector several serious diseases

Sources for Insect Vacuums

The California supplier BioQuip Products has several small vacuums that are mostly intended for insect monitoring and collecting, rather than control. One of the vacuums is a backpack unit, however, which might be useful for pest control in biointensive systems.

For very small-scale applications, the "Bug Vacuum" - a battery-operated, hand-held unit may work. However, it appears designed primarily for removing individual insects like errant wasps, bees, and flies from the home.

Summary

Field vacuums are an interesting non-chemical approach to insect pest management. While promising, the concept has not received wide use because of a number of problems, including cost and efficacy.


If I've "quoted" too much, please feel free to edit appropriately.

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