Bacterial Wilt

Bacterial Wilt
Bacterial Wilt

As its name suggests, bacterial wilt is a bacterial disease affecting cucurbits, such as:

Watermelons are rarely affected by bacterial wilt.

Note that bacterial wilt of cucurbits is different than the various bacteria-caused wilt diseases of corn.  These corn diseases are caused by different organisms and spread by different insect pests.

Bacterial wilt of cucurbits typically cannot survive or spread without the assistance of cucumber beetles.  Erwinia tracheiphila bacteria spend the winter in the digestive systems of the beetles and are then transferred from plant to plant as the insects feed during the growing season.  The bacteria take up residence in the xylem, or water transport tissue of the plant, and block up the flow of moisture.  Once a plant begins to succumb to bacterial wilt, it attracts more cucumber beetles.  The cucumber beetles then ingest more bacteria, and the cycle continues.


  • Dwarfism.
  • Rapid wilting.
  • Sudden drying out.
  • Pale, streaked leaves.
  • Excessive branching.
  • Whitish strings of bacterial slime oozing from stems when cut.
  • Excessive flowering.


Bacterial Wilt

There is no cure for bacterial wilt.  Remove and destroy affected plants immediately.


If bacterial wilt is a problem in your garden, choose resistant varieties when possible.  Unfortunately, no muskmelon varieties have been shown to resist bacterial wilt.

Because the bacteria involved are dependent on cucumber beetles for survival, any measures taken to control the beetles will greatly reduce the risk of the disease:

  • Till plant debris under in the fall to destroy insect shelter.
  • Rotate garden crops.
  • Deter cucumber beetles with floating row covers.
  • Kill cucumber beetles using handpicking, sticky traps, natural predators, or natural or chemical insecticides.

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Garden & Orchard Diseases

Garden & Orchard Diseases

Published by hsotr

Motivated by her experience growing up on a small farm near Wichita, Kansas, Michelle Lindsey started Homestead on the Range to supply Kansas country living enthusiasts with the innovative resources that they need to succeed and has now been keeping families informed and inspired for over five years. Michelle is the author of two country living books. She is also a serious student of history, specializing in Kansas, agriculture, and the American West. When not pursuing hobbies ranging from music to cooking to birdwatching, she can usually be found researching, writing, or living out the country dream.