What causes cucumber and cantaloupe vines to wilt and die?
Cucurbit vines wilt because of a disease called bacterial wilt, caused by Erwinia tracheiphila. This disease is vectored (spread) by cucumber beetles, and the bacteria enter the plant through feeding wounds. Bacteria grow inside the vines, producing a slimy material that blocks the flow of water in the plant and causes wilt. The bacterial slime can be seen as very fine strands when the cut ends of an infected vine are pressed together and slowly drawn apart.
To control this disease, manage cucumber beetles with timely insecticide treatments. Treat young plants that are just emerging through the soil or when they are just transplanted. Once the plants have been infected with the bacteria, there is nothing that can be done for them. However, early detection and removal of the infected plant or plant part can prevent spread of the disease. Contact your local Extension office for insecticide recommendations.