How can I keep my muskmelons from rotting?
The problem sounds like bacterial wilt, a disease spread from plant to plant by striped and spotted cucumber beetles. Both beetle types are approximately 1.4-3.8 inches long, and yellow to greenish yellow. The larvae feed on the plant roots, then the adult beetles chew on the plant leaves. The disease can hit at any time. To diagnose the disease, cut off a wilted stem near the base of the plant, then gently squeeze out the sap (the juice inside the stem). Touch a knife to the sap and withdraw it slowly. If your plant is infected with bacterial wilt, you'll see an oozing white substance that strings out in a fine thread as you withdraw the knife. There are no good chemical controls for bacterial wilt. Remove and discard all infected plants as soon as you notice the infection. Handpick the beetles off the plant, or use floating row covers until after the blooms have begun to appear. Spray plants every 7 days with carbaryl (Sevin) or a general insect-control product to control the beetles. If you want to use a nonchemical control, horticultural-grade diatomaceous earth also will reduce the number of beetles. Apply it to all plant surfaces.
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