Have you ever experienced this? One day you have a healthy squash plant then the next day, you find your plant limp and collapsed on the ground?
That could mean your plants have been attacked by the dreaded squash vine borer.
First of all just let me say – I HATE squash vine borers, I have dealt with them every year and some years more than once. So far, I have lost the battle with squash vine borers more than I have won.
But, this year I have tried a few methods to prevent, protect, and get rid of squash vine borers and at this point it looks like they’re working! That’s why I decided to share my success in squash vine borer treatment with you!
Squash Vine Borer: How To Prevent, Protect, And Get Rid Of Them!
Squash vine borers are born from eggs laid on the stems of leaves of your squash and zucchini plants. Now, these are not squash bug eggs, those are laid all in a row or set of tight rows. No, quite opposite of the squash bug eggs, these are laid willy-nilly all over the place and you have to search every inch of the plants to find them. I have checked my plants as many as 3 times a day and still missed some.
THIS is the moth you’ll be battling that is laying eggs all over your squash, zucchini, and sometimes cucumber plants!
Once those eggs hatch they immediately burrow into the stem of your plant and eat their way down the stem on the INSIDE, so the only way you know they are there is when you see tiny holes in your stem or what is known as “frass” which looks like wet sawdust and is actually their feces… gross..
If you were to cut open the stem and find one (or more) you will see that they are white grub/caterpillar looking worms with a brown head.
As I mentioned earlier I have battled these awful things here more than one time. I live in Texas and they start laying the eggs in Spring and can still laying them in November and December. Other places in the country say once you hit the Fourth Of July they are gone. So, you’ll need to check your zone to see when and if they show up where you are.
Signs Of Squash Vine Borer
Once you notice your squash plant wilted in your garden, take a closer look at the plant. Start at the base of the stem and work upward and outward, If you notice the tiny holes in the stem, or the “frass”, or you see the eggs which are copper colored and flat you can pretty much assume you have one or more vine borers in the stem and they have compromised your plant.
Due to lack of water and nutrients, the plan will start to wilt, even if you are consistently watering or using fertilizer.
Just because there are squash borers inside your plant doesn’t mean that it will certainly die! If you catch it soon enough there are things you can try.
It’s easy to get rid of these pests using simple, safe, and organic pest control methods. There is even a homemade pesticide that you can make in the comfort of your home!
How To Get Rid Of Squash Vine Borers
Locating the Squash Vine Borer
Removing these squash vine borers is pretty easy. Carefully slice open the vine lengthwise at the entry or where you see the “frass” and carefully open the stem up. Make sure to cut just above the spot where you can see the sawdust or the hole.
After opening the vine, you may either see the squash borer right away or you need to search around for it. Once you spot the squash vine borer, pull it out with a needle or sharp object and then squash it. You may also drop it in soapy water.
Once you have retrieved the bug(s) (always make sure you don’t leave one in there, there could be more than one) from inside the stem, if the slit you made is close enough to the ground to cover it back over with soil, do that. Make sure it has enough soil and water to allow the stem to root and recover.
If the slit is higher on the plant, carefully close it back up and tape it with electrical tape, a band aid, some medical tape, anything that will weather ok. Be sure not to tape it too tightly so it can expand.
A Less Invasive Method
Another method I have found VERY effective and the one I plan to continue using is BT also known as Bacillus Thuringiensis.
“Bt is a bacterium that is not toxic to humans or other mammals but is toxic to certain insects when ingested. … Over two decades of review, the EPA and numerous scientific bodies have consistently found that Bt and engineered Bt-crops are not harmful to humans.”Entomological Society of America
You can use it as a spray on your plants, which I also do, but it’s not as effective as the next method.
I went to my local feed store and bought needles for injecting the BT into the stem of the plant. The needles for me were about $0.40 each. You’ll want to change them out between each plant and then sterilize them well afterward before reuse.
Once the flowers begin blooming on your plants that’s when you want to begin injecting the stem weekly, if you see a vine borer has entered the stem, inject about 1 inch above. When they ingest the BT it causes them to stop eating and die.
I did this last season towards the end and had great success – the ones that got into my plant never caused them any harm and I was able to harvest until the frost – which NEVER happens for me. After I started using it I never lost another plant to Squash Vine Borers.
I prefer this method because 1. It works, 2. It’s inexpensive, and 3. It’s much better shooting a needle in my plat’s stems rather than slicing them open to remove the borers once they have entered the plant, and 4. I don’t have to inspect the plants 3 times a day looking for, and removing eggs.
Homemade Pest Control
Spraying an insecticide or pest control can also get rid of these pests. However, using a commercial insecticide is harmful not only to these insects but also to beneficial insects, and your family, too. But there are non-toxic and safe pest control options!
Neem Oil Solution
Prepare the Following:
- Mix the neem oil, mild soap, and warm water.
- Transfer the mix to a spray bottle.
Spray this oil solution all over the plant, as often as needed. Regular spraying can prevent these squash borers from laying eggs on your plants.
This is my favorite garden sprayer and it’s cheap at just $5! I use it all the time.
How To Prevent Squash Vine Borers
Use Yellow Sticky Traps.
To prevent these pests in your garden, kill the moths before they lay their eggs.
These moths are active during the day. They usually emerge from the soil. Since these moths are attracted to the color yellow, using yellow sticky traps can trap them.
You can also use yellow bowls. Fill them with warm soapy water and leave them around your plants.
Cover Your Plants
Prevent squash vine borers by preventing the moths from gaining access to your squash plants.
Cover your plants with floating row covers. Make sure to anchor the covers so the moths will not easily get underneath the plants. Once the plants begin to flower you can remove the row covers for pollination, or you can pollinate them yourself.
You can also create a barrier so that these borers cannot burrow into the stems. Wrap the stems with nylon strip, pantyhose, or aluminum foil strips. Below you can see I used foil on mine and the stem outgrew it. Since I have cut the leaves back I am going to further wrap the stem to protect it. So far, this has worked well.
Keep It Clean
If some plants are already infested with these pests and you can’t help them, remove them immediately. Place the infected plants in a garbage bag and dispose of them.
After harvesting the plants, clear away all the materials from the garden and start tilling it. Replace the soil to make sure that there are no larvae pupating in the soil.
Don’t plant squash in the same spot or soil for at least 3 years after a vine borer infestation. Once the vine borers finish eating your plant they burrow into the soil underneath and overwinter there and then emerge next spring as the moth that lays the eggs. So, be careful to make sure there are none in your soil by tilling at least 2 inches deep and bringing the overwintering pests up to the surface so the sun can kill them.
Do you have any natural and homemade pest control strategies with proven results in your garden? I would love to hear from you!
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