How to protect cantaloupes in southeast?

I can’t be the only one experiencing this. This past year was my first season growing cantaloupes. 90% of my melons were killed, by two insects:

(1) pickle worms

  • The pickle worms came from eggs laid by moths at night. Every evening I had to cover my cantaloupe patch with tarps and every morning I had to remove them. It worked. I almost completely eliminated pickle worms damage. But it was a pain in the butt.

(2) earwigs

  • They stood by and attacked the cantaloupes as soon as they were ripe. Only thing I could do was pick a bit under ripe.

I’m thinking some type of super fine mesh organza bags would be perfect. Is there such thing?

I’m not sure how big the moth is or if it can fit its eggs through the mesh. Maybe I can create a gap between the melon and the organza bag. Or how about pantyhose - do earwigs chew through it?

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Actually don’t have problems with these, but have you tried a Bt insecticide for the worms? Shouldn’t be a problem to the bees.
Maybe put some straw underneath the melons so they stay drier? Or raise them up somehow? Some air circulation would help with the earwigs.

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Thanks for your recommendations. I will try Bt insecticide. I thought about it before, but there are a couple of potential issues.

Bt usually works when sprayed on the surface of leaves, and caterpillars eating those leaves will ingest the bacteria which will kill them. When you spray on the cantaloupe, the caterpillar might not ingest enough of it because it drills straight into the fruit.

The other problem is that the moth that flies around is unaffected, and they lay eggs throughout the entirety of the season. So I will need to spray once a week to keep up with them, as well as use a hand spray (to immerse the fruit) because backpack sprayers don’t immerse the fruit, and could miss the exact spot where the egg is laid.

I haven’t seen anyone report on its effectiveness or lack of against the pickle worm, so I’ll volunteer to test it.

As for the earwigs and air circulation, I tried that already, by putting bricks underneath the cantaloupes.

We stopped growing melons because of pests, we are in the south east as well. Yet now I know about this kind of netting, https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B01G79PK5W/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o09_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 and some day I will try it after the flowers are pollinated, I’d place the netting under the vines and close the netting over the vines. I have not yet decided on exactly how to do that. This sort of net comes in many different sizes.

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I used the BT on my pumpkins and melons and cucumbers. Its worked for me.

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Do you guys run into problems with cucumber beetles?

Yes. Hungry little buggers.

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I’m in Alabama and used to have pickleworms BAAAD. I have had great success the last two years growing on a trellis which helps me get better spray coverage. I spray once a week or so with bt or spinosad focusing the spray on the growing tips. I don’t start spraying until I see some evidence of young worms in those growing tips or flowers. Finally, planting as early as possible helps too. I start seeds around Feb 1 inside then plant outside in mid to late March.

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Forgot to mention that I’ve tried fine mesh bags, zip loc, and paper bags around the fruits. The pickle worms will chew right through zip loc and women stocking mesh. Paper bags are a pain and you can’t see the melons. Zip loc also traps a ton of moisture. I gave up on physical barriers.

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