Squash bugs and squash vine borers can be the bane of any gardener’s existence! If you pride yourself in growing cucumbers, pumpkins, squash or any other types of gourds, chances are, you encounter these pesky nemesis in your garden.
All About Squash Bugs vs Squash Vine Borers
One day you may have a healthy vegetable garden, then the next day, there’s already a squash bug or squash vine borer infestation!
Before you start preparing your garden, you need to know exactly what a squash bug or squash vine borer is and how you can get rid and prevent them.
I live in Texas and I can tell you there are not many people here who will even attempt to grow squash or zucchini any more because of these pests. My hope is in the post to give you the knowledge you can use to be able to grow these delicious and abundant crops with less worry about these annoying pests.
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How Can You Identify a Squash Bug?
Adult squash bugs are flattened, large insects. They are usually dark gray to dark brown in color. Their abdomens have alternating orange and brown stripes and these insects measure 5/8 inches long.
A young squash bug nymph has a light green abdomen with black legs and heads. As these nymphs grow larger, they start turning light gray then brownish-gray with black antennae and legs.
What Does a Squash Vine Borer Moth Look Like?
An adult squash vine borer moth is usually 1/2 inch long with an orange abdomen with black dots. They fly during the day and mimic wasps.
Its first pair of wings are metallic green in color while their back pair of wings are clear. When they are at rest, the back wings are folded and cannot be easily seen.
She lays eggs on the squash plants that hatch and immediately burrow into the stem of the plant and begin to eat its way through the plant until it emerges and drops down into the soil to start the life cycle of the moth all over again.
In the meantime, what happens is while it’s eating its way through the stem of your plant it is robbing your plant of the nutrients it needs to survive. They work fast – your plant will be healthy and beautiful in the morning and when you check midday – it’s fallen over and dead. At that point there’s not much you can do to revive it.
The Damages Caused by Squash Bugs and Squash Vine Borers
The first symptom of a squash vine borer infestation is wilting of the affected plants.
Although wilting may occur because of the strong sun, lack of water, and other reasons, if you look closely, you may notice holes near the base of the plant. These holes are filled or oozing with moist greenish or orange sawdust-like material called “frass” and the base may become mushy then will rot away.
Meanwhile, squash bugs, which primarily attack pumpkins and squash, suck the sap out of the leaves. Their feeding causes yellow spots on the plant’s leaves and cause them to eventually turn brown.
How to Get Rid of Squash Bugs
Early detection is the key!
You may want to catch the squash bugs before they grow into full adult. Check your plants everyday.
Once you spot a squash bug, pick them off the plant. Fill a bucket of water with liquid dish soap and use it to flick the bugs. Once the bugs are dead, you can dispose of the water.
If you see squash bug egg masses, pick them off the plants too. Using a butter knife, you can scrape off the eggs and let them fall onto the ground. Squash bugs always lay their eggs in a cluster in neat rows.
Use Organic Pesticides
Use organic pesticides in early morning or late at night, when there is minimum bee activity. Make sure to spray the pesticide underneath the leaves where most squash bugs can be found.
Using pesticides may not be the best option, but using organic ones like 100% cold-pressed neem oil is great for getting rid of pests of all kinds without harming your plants.
Prevent the squash bugs from returning
After getting rid of the pests, the next step to take is to prevent them from coming back!
Keep the insects away from your plants by covering them with a floating row cover material. Using dirt, bricks or other heavy objects, make sure to secure the edges of the cover.
If you’re working with taller plants, lay the row cover over hoops set at least 3 to 5 feet apart. Avoid using mulch around your plants.
Using this method you’ll need to hand pollinate your plants as keeping the pests away from your plants also keeps away the pollinators.
Attract beneficial insects
To control squash bugs or squash vine borers, start attracting more beneficial insects.
There are several good garden bugs that feed on these pests. By encouraging them into your garden, you have a natural form of pest control.
These insects include:
- Machined flies
- Ground beetles
For squash vine borers, you can turn over the first couple of inches of soil to reveal the pupae and the birds will find and eat them so you won’t have a new set of “homegrown” pests on your hands.
Grow resistant varieties
While there is no squash variety that is fully resistant to squash bugs or squash vine borers, some are less attractive to these bugs.
By growing resistant varieties in your garden, you’re limiting your losses and potential bug infestation.
These squash types are more resistant to bugs:
- Royal acorn
- Round zucchini varieties
Remove infested garden debris
Remove the infested plants in your garden to keep any borers in your stems from emerging and dropping into the soil. Bag them up and dispose of them don’t compost them.
You just need trash bags and gloves to gather up all the contaminated plant debris.
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Squash bugs and squash vine borers can kill your whole crop, but knowing how to kill them can keep your crops healthy.
The best way to get rid of squash bugs is to keep plants watered and healthy, take steps to prevent squash bugs, and destroy any eggs you find before they hatch.