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What's eating my loofah flowers?

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What's eating my loofah flowers?

Post  point on 7/30/2013, 8:51 pm

I planted some loofah (cucumber family) seeds, which sent up nice vines and which are just now flowering.  We've got a short growing season here because it's generally too cool for loofah.



I was hoping to be able to at least eat the baby loofah, and had hoped for full grown fruit to turn into bathroom loofahs.  But most of the flowers are falling off the vine, so the whole experiment is off to a wobbly start.

The only insects I can see are large black ants (at upper left, above), which is apparently normal and not a cause for concern.

The flower stems appear to be pinched almost all the way off.  Other stems are just plain bitten off.  I think it's mainly the female flowers (not clustered together) that are being decimated.



I have no problem using Spinosad, but see no sense in killing ants that are supposedly not pests.  Any suggestions, please?
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Re: What's eating my loofah flowers?

Post  camprn on 7/30/2013, 8:58 pm

Your plants look healthy and they have new buds. FANTASTIC!  Did the flowers open and then fall off? My guess is that nothing is currently eating your loofa flower buds, but that plant aborted them during our heat wave, Now that the temperature is in a range that the plant can grow fruit, it is doing so.

BUT, do look carefully for aphids and cucumber beetle.

They really look great! I may want to try to grow those someday!

http://luffa.info/faq.htm

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Re: What's eating my loofah flowers?

Post  batmap on 7/30/2013, 9:21 pm

Leafcutter Ants hauling bits of yellow flowers to their nest. They don't harvest just leaves, but flowers too.


You may have some leaf cutters in your garden.
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Re: What's eating my loofah flowers?

Post  camprn on 7/30/2013, 9:27 pm

Interesting creatures, leaf cutter ants. However, they do not range to Massachusetts.


http://www.antweb.org/antblog/2011/03/geographic-range-of-leaf-cutter-ants-don-indianapolis-in-usa.html

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Re: What's eating my loofah flowers?

Post  point on 7/30/2013, 9:46 pm

Thank you both.

batmap, I have nowhere the numbers of the ants in your picture, and they appear to be a  different species according to the map that camprn has put up.  In fact, there seems to be one ant per flower cluster and they're not collaborative. When I knocked one off and it landed on another flower cluster, the resident ant attacked the one that'd fallen.

camprn,  Thanks for your suggestions.  I realize I haven't been looking closely enough at how the vines have leaves and tendrils and flowers distributed among them because I only noticed that the flowers were gone.


On the first picture of the original post, you can see the flower hanging from a very small portion of its stem, as if it had snapped off.  Heat alone can do that?

There were two flowers open at eleven this morning, and by five p.m., there were three on the ground and a few new buds:


I'm excited at how fast the vines have grown.  The flowers are a great surprise, too, in how bright they are through all the gray weather we've had.
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Re: What's eating my loofah flowers?

Post  batmap on 7/30/2013, 10:10 pm

Good catch. No idea leafcutter ants are not found in the the northeast.

Yahoo answers came up with green cutworm (may see moths) or slugs.
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Re: What's eating my loofah flowers?

Post  camprn on 7/30/2013, 10:14 pm

@batmap wrote:Good catch. No idea leafcutter ants are not found in the the northeast.

Yahoo answers came up with green cutworm (may see moths) or slugs.
Funny thing is, I don't see any critters OR evidence that anything is eating the plant, at least in the photos posted. It looks like aborted blooms to me.

@point wrote:
On the first picture of the original post, you can see the flower hanging from a very small portion of its stem, as if it had snapped off.  Heat alone can do that?
Yes.

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Re: What's eating my loofah flowers?

Post  southern gardener on 7/31/2013, 2:03 am

I had no idea you could eat loofas! Learn something new every day! Mine did awful last year, then all of a sudden, they took off, and we ended up with quite a few. We did have ants also, they were farming their aphid friends on the blossoms. I don't recall the flowers falling off for no reason. It seems they fell off after their "time" was done. Keep us posted on how your plants progress!
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Re: What's eating my loofah flowers?

Post  point on 7/31/2013, 8:14 am

@southern gardener wrote:I had no idea you could eat loofas! Learn something new every day! Mine did awful last year, then all of a sudden, they took off, and we ended up with quite a few. We did have ants also, they were farming their aphid friends on the blossoms. I don't recall the flowers falling off for no reason. It seems they fell off after their "time" was done. Keep us posted on how your plants progress!

 There are Chinese and Indian recipes for small immature loofahs (for example, http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/511149), but I've never tasted them.  I hope my plants recover like yours did.
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Re: What's eating my loofah flowers?

Post  Marc Iverson on 7/31/2013, 8:55 am

re: link? "Can't find page"
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Re: What's eating my loofah flowers?

Post  point on 7/31/2013, 3:45 pm

Marc,

I included the ")," in the link, and I don't know a way to correct it on the original reply.  The edit capability stops working after a couple? of hours.

The proper Chowhound link is http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/511149 .  Do not include the period when linking.


camprn and batmap,
  
I peered at the plants in full sunlight this morning, with and without my trifocals.  All I can see are the ants seemingly just dancing around the calyces.  There seem to be no worms or aphids, though there was a 1/2" German cockroach-looking bug on the underside of one of the leaves. 

Even though the petals have curled in on themselves, the stems on both of yesterday's flowers aren't perforated or bent... yet.  I am very tempted to scotchtape their stems, but won't.


Last edited by point on 7/31/2013, 4:08 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : add information)
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Re: What's eating my loofah flowers?

Post  point on 8/6/2013, 11:09 am

Hello,

All the flowers so far have bloomed for a day and then fallen off the vines.  I found a reference to squashes that may apply to these vines as well, since loofahs are supposedly a type of squash.  What do you think?

The piece said that if the female flower was not pollinated the day it was open, either by bees or a human with a paintbrush, it would fall off, and of course fruit would not set.

What's required for pollination is that both male and female flowers be open, and I have not yet seen that on my vines.

Here you see yesterday's flower, about to drop, and today's female flower.  You can also see the cluster of male flowers, unopened, as usual, with its retinue of ants.



 The weather has turned cooler as well, which'll slow the vines' growth.
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Re: What's eating my loofah flowers?

Post  point on 8/12/2013, 1:58 pm

Update!  Two of the flowers were pollinated, and I have inch-long squashes with the flower still hanging on!  Perhaps I'll get little loofahs. 

My husband, who likes to tease and does not garden, lets me know how long it is 'til first frost, so I figure these plants will have the required heat for a month still.
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Re: What's eating my loofah flowers?

Post  camprn on 8/12/2013, 3:00 pm

alrighta 

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Re: What's eating my loofah flowers?

Post  Triciasgarden on 8/12/2013, 11:33 pm

This was a great read, congratulations!  I thought the scotch tape idea was sure funny!
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Re: What's eating my loofah flowers?

Post  point on 9/4/2013, 9:05 am

Re-update: The pollinating insects have finally come back, so I have one 15", a 6", and a 2" gourd thus far.  If the flowers are edible, I've been missing out.  Squash flowers look similar, and they're good.

It's still a rush 'til frost.  Will post the end of the saga in late October.
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Re: What's eating my loofah flowers?

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