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Squash & Bugs – It ain’t over ’til it’s over.

I lost 16 squash plants to the Squash Vine Borer this summer.  Fortunately, I started new seed the minute I transplanted the original plants to the garden. And then continued to do that each time I lost some so I’d have back-up.

Even though the SVB killed the first of both my yellow squash and my Zuchetta (a vining zucchini) they seem to definitely prefer the yellow squash.  Same with the squash bug.  I’ve killed some on the Zuchetta, but I’ve noticed they seem to stay with the yellow squash more.  (A useful piece of information to have when planning various strategies in the war against both SVB and squash bug.)

Hope I’m not speaking too quickly, but it looks like I may get squash — even if they are late. Five plants are looking really good.

But — as the saying goes — it ain’t over till it’s over.

After the squash are finished I intend to look through the soil in that area and make an effort to find any pupae of the squash vine borer that may be there since I was unable to locate any larvae in the stems this year. Pupae are about 1 inch long, brown or grey, and resemble a fiber-like wad. I may not find them — but I’m going to look.

As always when my squash is finished I’ll leave the plants in the garden for a while and continue to check everyday for squash bugs.  If I take the plants out of the garden too quickly they’ll just move to and feed on something else,  fattening up for hibernation in the soil.  But if I leave the squash plants — they stay with them and I can greatly reduce their numbers.

I think the low number of squash bugs this year was due to my diligence last fall.

So when your squash is finished —- REMEMBER — it ain’t over ’til it’s over!  Leave those plants in the garden for a few weeks until you’ve killed every squash bug you can. Then take them out and destroy them — just in case there are eggs on them you may have missed.

Related Posts:

Squash bugs – Tactics for Winning the War

Squash bugs – End of the Season Strategy

Your Garden – 10 things to do in the Fall

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20 comments to Squash & Bugs – It ain’t over ’til it’s over.

  • Sue T

    Theresa, good luck with those 5 remaining plants! I had a couple of yellow squash plants looking very good this year until I hurt my back and wasn’t able to get out in the garden for a while and the squash bugs killed the plants.
    I think your idea for searching for SVB pupae in the soil is great! I’ve never had SVB problems (I think I remember reading they’re usually east of the Mississippi River), but squash bugs get my squash every year. Do you have any tips on looking for overwintering squash bug eggs, larvae, pupae (I don’t know in what stage they overwinter) in the soil?
    Thanks!

  • Theresa

    Sorry to hear you hurt your back Sue. Hope you’re back to 100%!

    Squash bugs overwinter only in the nymph and adult forms. Of course, the females that mated the previous year can emerge from the soil ready to continue laying some of their 250 eggs without mating again! That’s why it’s important to kill everyone you can before they overwinter.

    If you leave plants in the garden that have eggs on them —- although I don’t know for sure — I wouldn’t be surprised if some of those eggs hatched when conditions turned favorable.

    If you were unable to kill the squash bugs as your plants died they are still in your garden. You may want to be prepared for next year with a strategy that includes planting yellow squash knowing that they will be attacked in full force. Mission: Search and destroy and be prepared with additional seedlings as you go. If you are able to wage the war consistently — even if you loose some plants —- sooner or later you’ll get some ———-OR at the very least — be successful in getting the number of bugs down so the following year will be successful.

    Stay well, Sue! Good hearing from you again.
    Theresa

  • Jennifer Smith

    As usual, great information, Theresa. Funny, the squash bugs in my garden really like my birdhouse ghourd and pumpkins. I found hardly any on my yellow squash.

    Jennifer

  • Theresa

    Wow, Jennifer! Aren’t you luck! The only way it could get better is if they stayed exclusively on your birdhouse ghourd.
    By the way, did you end up starting more pumpkins?
    Theresa

  • Bonnie

    The war on squash bugs was more in my favor this year. I squashed over 80, and close to 100, adults and now only have a few eggs to contend with. Till last year we had never had them, and they got way ahead of me. But leaving the plants till winter and hunt and destroy all remaining adults and eggs per your suggestions has seemed to turn the tide. Then burning the dead plants all seems to help.

    We also don’t have SVB at least yet. I have lost several plants but it appears to be from over head spraying.

    Now the grasshoppers are really on the feeding frenzy. We hunt them in the morning, tear in half and then leave the carcasses on the battle field as warning to others.

  • Theresa

    Congratulations Bonnie on a job very well done!!! Your story will be very encouraging to others as well.

    I saw a grasshopper control method the other day on a forum I frequent. I had never heard of this before, but you might want to try it:
    The gardener said she hand picks grasshoppers at night by flashlight because all their senses seem to shut down in the dark. She takes a plastic soda bottle (milk jug or water jug would do) and puts the hoppers in them.

    She went on to say that when she first started a week ago she was almost able to fill the bottle. After a week of night hunting it was hard to find any.

    She put the top on, waited a day and fed the dead hoppers to her ducks and chickens.

    Thanks for letting us know of your success in the war against the squash bugs. Hope you’ll win the battle with the grasshoppers as well. I think leaving the carcasses on the battle field as a warning to others will help. 🙂 (Couldn’t resist that.)

    All the best,
    Theresa

  • Jennifer

    I planted more pumpkins middle of this week after soaking the seeds for a bit. I had luck at the beginning of the season with getting them to germinate quickly by soaking them, so I figured why not try again. I have some DIY hoop houses for my raised beds that I’m hoping will help extend the season a bit in order to harvest the pumpkins. I DO have 3 pumpkins on my last plant that are approaching harvest, so even if the late pumpkins don’t pan out, my kids will at least be happy with the small harvest.

    As this is our first year gardening, I’m taking lots of notes and filing away lots of info in my brain for future years.

  • Theresa

    Jennifer, if this is your first year you’re doing even better than I thought! Keep up the good work!
    Those pumpkins will be lots of fun for the kids. Did you think to scar the pumpkins with the kid’s names? As they grow the name grows too. They’d love that!
    Theresa

  • Jennifer

    Thanks for the vote of confidence, Theresa! I checked this afternoon and my new pumpkin seeds are up with seed leaves, YEAH!!

    I never heard of scarring pumpkins, but if we get some with this second planting, I’m definitely trying it out. I need quite a few pumpkins, though, I have 5 children 😀 with #6 due in January. Another reason for some failures in our garden this year, morning sickness hit me pretty hard and coupled with the heat waves we’ve had, I wasn’t able to spend as much time out in the garden.

    I’m truly hoping our fall garden will be more successful 😀

  • Theresa

    The pumpkins came up fast! Those kids will have fund with scarring those pumpkins with their names.
    Based on what I know about you so far —- your garden was a huge success in my book!
    With your great attitude Jennifer — I’m sure you’ll be more and more successful with every garden!
    All my best wishes,
    Theresa

  • Heather

    Hi Theresa! So how did your squashes end up doing last year? I just lost 8 of my 12 summer squashes and both my acorn squashes to the vine borers. The squash bugs and cucumber beetles have been very manageable this year but I have never figured out how to outwit the borers! At least this year I planted way more summer squashes than I need, and hopefully the remaining 4 will survive.

  • Theresa

    Hi Heather,
    The Zuchetta squash produced ok — but I don’t think I’ll ever grow it again because it takes up too much room for what it produces. (Even though I grew most of it up a support.)

    This year I had both zucchini and yellow squash. As with you the squash bugs and cuke beetles here have been very manageable but I lost to the borer. I got a nice amount from the zucchini, but the borer killed the yellow squash after only two meals of yellow squash. Disappointing.

    I remember years ago — at our other place — having a beautiful squash plant that produced in the garden for more than 4 months! If I had not experienced that I wouldn’t think it possible.

    I’ve read of people protecting the main stem with a stocking — but I’ve never figured out how to get that on the stem without ruining the plant — even if you do it when the plant is very young.

    Hope you got a lot of squash before the borer got the plants.
    Theresa

    P.S I have noticed that in years I grow winter squash in the flower borders I don’t seem to have as much trouble with those plants being attacked by the borer. It might be because the plants crawl in amongst the perennials and are not as “noticeable” to the borer. (Winter squash have a harder stem and less susceptible to borer damage — but that’s not always the case — as you know. )

    I’ve read of gardeners being successful with row covers, but that would not be practical for me at this point. Sometime in the future I may rethink my planting and arrange it so that would be possible. (Of course, you have to sure that the borer is not already in the ground and matures to attack the squash under the row cover. 🙁 )

  • Heather

    Unfortunately I hadn’t yet gotten any summer squash at all, as I planted very late this year. I was hoping that planting late might help me to avoid the borers, thinking perhaps if any were in the soil, they’d emerge and go elsewhere. Plus I planted them in new beds. At least now I know that late planting as a strategy is ineffective!

    I have lost 2 more of my remaining 4 summer squash since I last wrote, and found smaller borers in the ones that are left. It remains to be seen if they will survive. I must admit that I am tempted to not bother with them next year (3 years in a row of no success with them – which means that a large proportion of my smallish garden ends up being unproductive). Either that or find a way to do row covers, as you mentioned. But I’d need to find yet another bed for that to work. I wonder how many years I’d need to not plant curcurbits to rid my soil of any overwintering pupae?

    I must also admit that I am tempted to give up trying to be organic for those crops. Only because if I don’t grow them, I end up buying conventionally grown anyways, and at least if I grow them they’d be fresher, tastier, and cheaper. It doesn’t help that I have a new neighbor who does everything “wrong”. Raised beds with weed-guard fabric right on top of her lawn, which are only about 6″ and filled with mostly Home Depot bagged soil. Miracle-Gro, overhead watering with tap water, and spraying with all kinds of chemicals. But she is getting an abundant harvest of squashes and melons! I’m jealous 😉

    I would prefer to find a way to do it organically. How do large-scale organic growers do it?

  • Theresa

    Heather, I will answer your concerns in detail as soon as I can.
    In the meantime — try not to be jealous of your neighbor’s squash. Think of it as being jealous of the poison apple the wicked queen handed to Snow White. Poison is the not a healthy diet.
    Theresa

    Update:July 30, 2013 — I’ve addressed part of Heather’s concerns in a post: Organic Gardening – Tempted to Give it Up?

  • Anna

    I am told that squash vine borers are very capricious. They can inhabit one person’s backyard, but a quarter mile away another neighbor won’t have them. I am so envious of the people you hear about who have to resort to leaving bags of squash on the front porches of neighbors to get rid of them because their plants are so prolific. I don’t have a lot of room, so I did succession planting in pots this summer with some success. Next year, will probably put the “extra” plants in half barrels, I think they needed more space. Re: the nylon stocking, I found a great video on the subject. You wait until the plant is pretty big, before it sets flowers, and you excavate the top two inches of the stem. You take a single knee high or leg of a pair of regular hose and you wrap it like a bandage around the stem, from the lowest point and up the stem. Then, you take a long section of alumninum foil and you wrap that around the stem over the stocking. You go up as far as you can. Replace the soil at the stem, and that’s it. I heard it was how people who grow those fantastic competition pumpkins deal w/ SVB. It’s worth a try!

  • Theresa

    Definitely worth a try Anna. I had always wondered how folks got the stocking on. 🙂
    Theresa

  • Heather Bress

    This might be the video Anna mentioned – I’m going to try it this year! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhYmZ_MoZO0

  • Theresa

    Heather, thanks so much for posting this. This video makes it look so easy. His squash plants are so open. Anytime I’ve tried to do this in past years, my squash are so huge that I can’t easily get to the stem. But I think I’ll give it another try this year. Also, sometimes the borer gets smaller plants that seem too little to wrap. Let me know how it works for. If I try it again, I’ll report in also.
    Thanks again.
    Theresa

  • Melanie

    I live in the southern portion of North Carolina where the squash Vine borer has two successful life cycles. Control of the vine borer requires multiple approaches, diligence and perseverance. In February till your garden. This will take care of some of the Borers overwintering in your soil. After planting your squash keep your ears and eyes open for that bright red and black moth. Right before your blooms open, start to physically control the vine borer by searching for its eggs.The flat little brown eggs are not difficult to spot once you learn what to look for. Unlike the squash bug the borer lays its eggs singly. The borer is very stealth and will lay its eggs up the stem, at the base of the stem, on the leaf. For me it’s become a game. I scrape the borer eggs off with my fingernail and dispose of them in a pot of soapy water. In mid-June I brush the stems and the soil with food-grade diatomaceous earth. Lastly, I succession plant. I put my first crop of yellow and green squash in the ground as soon as I can even if I have to protect it with row covers from frost and I continue to plant as long as I possibly can, putting new plants in the garden every two weeks. After 2 years of diligence I have an abundance of squash and zucchini. I’m the one leaving the extra on the neighbor’s porch. The amount of effort to control the vine borer has decreased and this year I have not seen the border nor have I found any of its eggs. Maybe it got the message: move on or be killed.

  • Gene

    I have a different strategy, resistant varieties. Tatume and moschatas. Both are unaffected by SVB and very tasty! I think Theresa’s zuchettas are what I call Tromboncino’s, just be prepared for long vines. Others from Baker Creek are lemon and table dainty (Have not grown). I do plant yellow and zucchini, but take what the SVB’s give me and don’t battle them. I do have large cattle panels to handle the vines.

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