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Squash Bugs – Tactics for Winning the War

There are lucky gardeners (some of them readers of TMG) who don’t even know what a squash bug looks like!  But if you live in parts of the country that has a heavy population of them — like here in Virginia –you’ll never be rid of them 100% no matter what you do.

Non-organic gardeners may think that poisons are the answer, but that line of thought is a result of programing by marketing and lack of facts.  If you’ll notice, the people that consider these poisons “safe” are the manufacturers and sellers of the poisons. Dumping poison on food to kill bugs and then ingesting it— is not something a knowledgeable, thinking person is going to do.

Defining “Winning the War”

In areas like ours where the squash bug is common — winning the war against squash bugs is defined as

  • keeping the number under control by killing every one you can and
  • getting a good harvest of squash

Combination of Strategies

To win this war usually takes a combination of strategies used consistently in order to get the desired results. And if you’re going to grow any curcubits (squash, melons, gourds, cucumbers, pumpkins, luffas, watermelons) it’s a battle that’s constant and ongoing in areas where squash bugs are prevalent.

Choose a Strategy that’s Practical for You

Every proposed strategy is not suitable for everyone. There are some that I absolutely know would work for me, but for one reason or the other it may not be practical to use that strategy in my garden. Since things can change from year — one strategy that’s not practical this year — might be practical the next.

For this reason, I would suggest bookmarking this page and reviewing it from year to year.

Know Your Enemy

  • When adult squash bugs come out of the soil in the spring, any females who didn’t lay all their eggs last year — can start laying eggs right away. So eggs can be on the plant before the overall population of bugs start to mate.
  • After the other females mate, they can lay up to 250 eggs.  They lay approximately 20 at a time. Usually eggs are on the underside of the leaf, but you’ll find them on top sometimes.
  • Eggs can be bronze, black, or gold colored.  They can be spaced apart or close together, but usually with an equidistant spacing arrangement.  Bugs start feeding and laying eggs first on the part of the plant closest to the ground.

A Tip for Finding More Bugs: When you see those lower leaves start to shrivel, wilt, turn yellow, and then die — that’s usually squash bug damage.  In the early morning and in the heat of the day, bugs will tend to congregate under these leaves.  When you’re looking for squash bugs — this is the place to start.

  • Eggs hatch in  7 to 9 days depending on temperatures.  The young tend to feed in a group and stay right where they hatched.  That doesn’t last long and each will move to different parts of the plant to feed.  This is the part that makes  early detection crucial.  Once they start multiplying it makes your job much more difficult.
  • The babies — (called nymphs) –go through 5 stages (called instars) before they become adults. This cycle takes about 6 to 8 weeks.
  • The bugs will continue feeding on the plant and its fruit until frost!  They over winter in the top 6 inches of the soil either in your garden or near by.

Your Most Important Tactic

Of all the tactics you use in your master plan to wage war on squash bugs the one that is first and foremost for success is the action you take to seek out and destroy squash bugs. You must be consistent in your “seek and destroy” mission to be successful.

If you can’t check twice a day, check once a day.  If you can’t do that — check every other day.  And certainly, I would recommend not going longer than every third day without looking for and destroying squash bugs and removing eggs.

Try to plan your checks in the early AM or late PM.  Avoid handling the plants when they are wet with dew or rain.  Diseases can spread very rapidly in those conditions.

Also avoid handling the plants in the high heat of a summer day.  Plants are more stressed when the sun is hot and high.  Many show it by wilting — since they’re giving off more water than they’re able to take up.  You can loose plants by handling them when they are under stress.  Just wait until the sun is low.  They’ll recover in the evening.

My  Plan of Attack

I’m in my garden twice each day and spend a few minutes each time finding and destroying squash bugs and removing the egg masses. I take my garden gloves with me and squash every adult and nymph squash bug I find.

First I check for bugs under the bottom leaves that show signs of damage and then I look under the other leaves. I find a lot of eggs right at the leaf base in between the veins of the leaf.

Alternative to squashing: Handpicking and placing the bugs in a small bowl of soapy water will kill them.

I literally tear the egg masses off of the leaves. And I put that part of the leaf in my pocket so that when I get to the house I can put it in a plastic bag, seal it, and put it in the trash.

Alternative to tearing the leaf: Remove the eggs with duct tape. Stick the tape on the eggs and pull off.

Important Note: The eggs will hatch even if they’re not on the plant.  Flush them down the toilet or put them in a plastic bag and get them gone!

I only grow a few squash plants because I just don’t want to spend anymore time on this task. The more plants you have the longer it will take you check for squash bugs and eggs.

Sometimes I don’t even want to grow squash because of the squash bug.  But if I don’t grow some squash — they will attack my cucumbers in full force and I’d rather keep them centered on the squash for easy checking.  As the season progresses they can move to the cukes anyway, but the bug numbers are not as bad as if I had not raised squash. In effect the squash acts as a trap crop.

WATER as Part of your “Seek and Destroy” Strategy

If you have the use of a hose or water wand near your garden you can use water as part of your “seek and destroy” strategy.

Spray your plants  — the under sides of leaves and around the roots.  The water drives the squash bugs out in the open where you can destroy them by whatever method you’ve chosen.

Hand-held  or Shop VACUUM

You can vacuum  up bugs and possibly the eggs.  This allows you to capture more bugs at once. This is particularly useful after you’ve used a spray of water to get larger numbers of the bugs out in the open.  Also, lift those bottom leaves to get large numbers at one time.

IMPORTANT: Make sure you empty the vacuum and either destroy the contents (burning will work) or place in a sealed bag and take to the trash. Again, the eggs will hatch even if not on the plant.

Very inexpensive hand-held mini bug vacs are available just for this.

Boards and Burlap

Another tactic used to find and destroy greater numbers at one time is to place wood boards or pieces of burlap down around the plants in the evening.  In the early AM and again in the heat of the day bugs take shelter there.  Lift the boards or burlap and kill or vacuum up the bugs in numbers.

Row Covers

Floating row covers (row cover fabric) can be one of the best and most effective strategies for having squash all summer. With some diligence, they will protect from squash bugs (AND the squash vine borer). If you use this method here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Plant in a section of the garden that did not have squash bugs (or squash vine borers) last year. You don’t want them coming out of the ground under your row covers.
  • You’ll have to lift the row cover and hand-pollinate and then replace the cover.
  • If you’re placing covers over  squash that have been growing in the garden unprotected, check thoroughly to make sure there are no squash bugs or eggs before you cover them.
  • Make sure they’re secure at the ground level so the bugs don’t go under them.  (I would pile dirt on the fabric all around the edges.)
  • Watch for tears and holes in the fabric that would allow the bugs to get in.

Tip: Devastating winds in some areas of the country are hard on row covers and hoop houses.  Make sure the fabric is taut — no matter where you live.  The more loose the fabric is  — the more the wind can move it around.

There are always a lot of variables to consider in determining what method is just right for you.

For example: if your garden is as full as mine in the spring this tactic may not be practical until the fall when you can usually give the squash an entire row to themselves.

Trap Crops

Trap Crops at the beginning of the season can work in tandem with other strategies like row cover fabric.

Try planting several squash plants a good distance from the ones in your garden under row covers.  If you don’t plan to eat these you can use methods that maybe you wouldn’t use on ones you’ll eat.  (I’ll talk more about that under Chemicals for Organic Gardens.) You’ll kill a lot of squash bugs and at the same time, insure greater success for the ones under the row covers.

End of the Season – Trap

Near of the end of the season – or when your plants are about done — squash bugs will amass on what remains. This is an opportunity not to be passed up.  Killing off the remaining numbers will cut down on what you have to deal with next year by preventing this group from wintering-over in your garden or near your garden.

Check the plant remains everyday. New bugs will continue to gather on them.  (I discussed this in a post last fall.) Use a chosen strategy to kill them.

One fellow who had a two row planting of squash, pulled up one plant at a time towards the ends of the season. He’d destroy that plant and   give the bugs a day to congregate on the other plants.  He continued this plan until only one plant remained with all the bugs on it. Then he  used a Bernz-o-matic torch with the long nozzle and burned the plant and then all the compost and mulch nearby where the bugs might hide.

Obviously, this is something that takes care and planning.  You don’t want to set your entire garden (or yard or house) on fire — or anything else for that matter. Safety is imperative if you use this method.

Growing in Containers

A strategy that has been successful for many gardeners is growing in containers or grow bags.  Grow bags hold plants high enough off the ground that it’s easier to see and kill the squash bugs when performing “bug-checks”.

Container growing in combination with other strategies can be especially successful. For example, one gardener put some type of weed barrier on her lawn and then set the containers with the squash down on that.  There was no place for squash bugs to escape or hide and if one was found it could easily be caught and killed.

Gayle, an experienced long-time gardener and reader of TMG has come up with a great combination-strategy using containers, water, diatomaceous earth and row cover fabric.

  • She’s planted the squash in grow bags so that it was easy to capture and kill the first bugs she found.
  • Searched for more bugs using a spray of water to dislodge any bugs that may have been hiding.
  • Placed a ring of diatomaceous earth around the plants. (In  addition, I would dust the base of the plants in case the squash bugs come down the stem from the top of the plant.)
  • A cage built to go over each pot was covered securely with lightweight insect fabric.
  • Daily checking is planned to see if the bugs have found their way inside the barrier.
  • When the plants flower, she will hand pollinate.

If Gayle’s combination strategy is practical for you, I think it’s as close to perfect as any I’ve heard of.

Diatomaceous Earth (DE)

Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is all natural.  It’s made from tiny fossilized water plants.  Because of its microscopic razor sharp edges it can be lethal to insects.  When dusted with DE, or when it is applied as a wettable powder spray, it can cut through a bug’s protective covering, dry them out, and kill them.

The insect must come in contact with the DE for it to effect them. It does not kill instantly. And – as with most things – some folks seems to have better luck with it than others. One user even observed that she had better luck with it where her soil was sandy and no  luck with it where her soil was clay.

It’s best used discriminately in the garden because it can kill your beneficials as well as the bad guys. Using it on plants and trees that are flowering can kill your pollinators.

Some DE — even that approved for use in Organic Gardens –  has pesticide bait added to it.  To be safe, use only food grade DE.

As far as safety concerns for the gardener — avoid breathing the dust. Any foreign material that ends up in your lungs can be a carcinogen. It’s an irritant to skin and eyes as well. So just take precautions to be safe.

You can get a duster for applying it here which with a little practice saves DE and makes it easier to apply in tight spots. Also available is the duster with a one pound bag of DE here.

Dishwashing Liquid Spray

One of things that has really surprised me is reading of the success gardeners have had using a simple Dawn dish-washing liquid and water spray.  (I’m adding this to my arsenal of weapons against the squash bug this year, and will use Dawn — although I don’t know whether it really matters what brand you use.)

One gardener even made a comparison to see if she could tell the difference between plants sprayed with dawn  and water and another spray she had that contained organic pesticides.  She found they both worked the same.  Impressive.

This spray should kill the young almost instantly, but will take a few minutes to knock down the adults.

Here are 3 different recipes for a soap spray.

  • The first is one tablespoon of liquid soap per gallon of water.  If my math is correct this works out to one teaspoon per every 5 1/3 cups; 1/2 teaspoon for every 2 2/3 cups.
  • Another recipe called for 1/4 inch soap in a small squirt bottle; then fill it with water.  (They emphasized DO NOT SHAKE UP.  I’m not just sure why — but I think I’ll follow this direction until I can see for myself.) After you spray the bugs they should start dying within minutes.
  • Still another calls for a Kirk’s or Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap. They used the old fashioned hand (bar) soap rather than the liquid soap. Shave or grate about 1/3rd of the bar and let it dissolve in 32 oz. of hot or very warm water. Pour into spray bottle. They also suggest setting the spray setting between a stream of water and a mist to give a bit of foam with the spray. (Not sure why.)

WARNINGS:

  • You still want to be careful to avoid spraying your pollinators and other beneficials.  By spraying just before dark you will avoid most bees.
  • Soap sprays should be sprayed directly on the bugs, NOT on your plants!  Soap can do major damage to your plants especially during intense heat and sunlight.  It can easily burn foliage and often won’t show up for a few days. So just be careful.  You may want to test it on a lower leaf just to see what it will do.

Safe Brand makes an insect killing soap if you don’t want to make one yourself.  But remember — it will still kill your plants under certain conditions so be very careful how you use it.

Example of a Possible Strategy using Dawn/Water spray in your arsenal

In my opinion an ideal combination of weapons in your “search and destroy” missions could be water wand, your soap-spray solution, and gloves. If practical for you a possible plan of attack could be:

  • Look under bottom leaves first.  Spray the bugs you find with the dawn solution (or the one of your choosing).
  • Look under boards and burlap. Spray the bugs you find with the soap solution.
  • Using the hose or water wand spray the entire plant with water to dislodge the bugs.  Spray bugs with soap solution.
  • Spray the mulch around the base with water to dislodge the bugs. Spray bugs with soap solution
  • Vacuum the bugs.
  • Look for and remove eggs.

A Home Made Insecticide — if the you have the stomach for it!

I read about this mixture in Organic Gardening Magazine more than 30 years when I was a fairly new gardener.  Even if I had an old blender that I could use — I didn’t have the stomach to fix it.  But many gardeners over the years have reported great results.

It’s my understanding that this method can be used for almost any insect pests. It’s said to work because most insects have a virus in them that will kill them.  This mixture spreads the virus to other insects of the same family — in this case — the squash bug.

Kill and collect as many as you can of the insect you’re trying to kill.  Add water and blend well.  Let stand for 2 or 3 days.  Strain off the liquid and use it to spray your squash.

 Home Made Repellants

There are probably as many variations on these “old” repellant recipes that use chiles, onions and garlic as there are gardeners. They work to repel rather than kill, so you’ll still need to continue your “seek and destroy” program.  The thing I wonder about is — if the squash bugs are repelled from the squash plants – or other curcubits you use the repellant on — will they go to other plants in the garden?

On a more positive note — I think these repellants would be excellent for the Squash Vine Borer! (I don’t know why, but I especially favor the first one and the third one for the SVB.)

  • # 1 – Fill spray bottle with water and 2 tablespoons of Eucalyptus oil.  Spray.
  • # 2 -Make a solution with hot chile peppers and water. Let sit for 24 hours. Strain and spray.
  • # 3 – Add onions, cayenne peppers,  several garlic cloves and enough water to make a semi-liquid mixture. Whirl in blender.  Let is sit for 24 hours. Add 1 tablespoon of the mix to 1 gallon of water and spray. (I’m not sure how one would keep the excess. :) )

Natural Repellants to Plant in the Garden

Last year I read about onions being planted with squash to repel the squash bug. Since I plant lots of onions, I panted some with every squash plant I put in or out of the garden.  I don’t know if it was effective.  The squash bug seemed longer in showing up, but it did show up — and in its usual numbers.

I’ve read that nasturtiums are good to plant with squash, but I’ve also read that nasturtiums draw the squash bug — like a trap crop.  This would not be the repellant crop for me.

Radishes planted with squash and left to go to seed are said to repel the squash bug.  I’m doing this this year.

Tansy is said to be a good squash bug repellant.  I also read that it repels the asparagus beetle.  I have tansy, the asparagus beetle and the squash bug.  But who knows, maybe I’d have more of the bugs if I didn’t have the tansy. I do manage to keep the bugs under control.

A Great Weapon if they fit Your Life Style – Guinea Hens

People who have Guineas say they have no bugs or very few anyway.  They’re much less destructive in a garden than chickens. (Chickens will eat your veggies.) They’re not practical for me to own, but I always wish I could rent a few during the squash bug season.

Natural Predators

The tachinid fly is a natural predator I know I have in my garden because it takes care of any Tomato Hornworms that happen along. I see the eggs in what few worms I have in my garden.

I’ve read that it’s a natural enemy of the squash bug as well.  And maybe it gets some squash bugs in my garden before I get them, but I’ll never know for sure.

One thing I’ll do this year to increase the chances of the tachinid fly being able to lay its eggs on squash bugs is to plant buckwheat amongst the squash. The tachnid fly can dine on the nectar of the buckwheat bloom and then lay their eggs on the squash bugs.  I’ll sow a little patch every week or two close to the squash.

Chemicals for Organic Gardens – The Pros and Cons

All chemicals — even those approved for use in Organic Gardens — need to be used with caution, thought, planning, and care. Keep in mind there is nothing inherently “safe” about naturally occurring poisons.

Pyrethrum

This is natural pesticide that is derived from flowers.  Pyrethrum affects the nervous systems of insects and disrupts normal functioning. It does not kill instantly.

It breaks down quickly – especially in sunlight — and does not persist in the environment.

If used correctly they are considered safe. Inhaling them can cause chest pain, shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing.  Contact with skin can cause redness, irritation , itching and blisters.   Pyrethrins are considered the lest poisonous insecticides to cat, dogs, other household mammals, and backyard wildlife.  Some gardeners won’t use pyrethrins because they find it toxic to their cats.

Pyganic is a brand name that some of the organic market growers use.  It’s a bit expensive, but Amazon has it for about $20 cheaper than other places.

Safer makes a Tomato and Vegetable Insect Killer that combines pyrethrins and potassium salts of fatty acids and kills on contact.  The potassium salts weaken the insects protective outer shell, while the pyrethrins attack the nervous system.

Neem Oil –Some gardeners swear by it and say they have no squash bugs at all. Others say it’s only somewhat effective. Some gardeners spray twice a year; others spray every two weeks. You’ll still have to patrol for eggs.  And to insure a better degree of control you’ll want to continue hand-picking and killing.

I think I would have been tempted to use Neem Oil had I not known certain things about it.  Neem is systemic: It enters the plant via the roots and passes through the tissues of the plant.  You can pour it on the soil or spray it on your plant and the plant will absorb it. Some insects like aphids who can’t penetrate the leaf deep enough to get a dose of neem — remain unharmed.  Squash bugs – that suck all the fluids from the leaf — should get a good dose of neem. That’s the main way Neem Oil kills insects.

Although Neem Oil is — for the most part — considered safe for humans  I don’t think I want to take it into my body as part of the food I grow.

One gardener used it for a while — and although effective on the squash bugs –  he tasted the neem after a while.  That doesn’t appeal to me at all!

Neem -  is an oil — thus, it also suffocates insects. It coats the bugs and they can’t breath.  It can also kill pollinators and beneficials this way. Beneficials and pollinators are most active during the day, so spraying in the evening would do less harm to the good guys. Once the spray dries, it won’t harm the insects who don’t ingest the plant or it’s fluids.

Safer makes a product, End All, with pyrethrin, neem, and soap.  It kills stink bugs and squash bugs.  Since it has soap — I would advise caution about spraying on the plant itself since soap can harm plants as mentioned earlier.

Rotenone  -

I would not recommend using Rotenone although it’s approved for Organic Gardens. If you decide to use it, I hope you will exercise due diligence in researching it.

It comes as a powder or concentrate liquid. In insects and fish it causes paralysis and inhibits oxygen from being taken in by cells.

It is toxic to humans and other mammals. It breaks down in about a week or less, especially when exposed to direct sunlight. Wear protective covering and latex or rubber gloves. Do not spray when it’s windy. Do not inhale as inhalation is said to be even more toxic than ingestion.

A Suggestion on how to use Chemicals approved for Organic Gardens

  • Neem or Pyrethrums might be used on trap crops some distance from your garden. This form of trap cropping can be very successful if you have your garden’s squash plants covered with row cover fabric as discussed previously.
  • Pyrethrums might be used at the end of the season when you are killing off bugs on plants that are no longer producing.

A Comment on so-called Resistant Varieties

From time to time you’ll see articles about varieties of squash that may be resistant to the squash bug.  I’m not sure that one exists — but it might.

I do know that many people who write “articles” about or for gardeners are not gardeners.  Nor are they knowledgeable in any garden matters. They take the information that is “out there” and rewrite it and give information they feel is correct, but may not be.  I knew a woman once who made her living regurgitating words found in research — through eyes that were totally uninformed  in the field she was writing about.

Over the years I have come across so many articles that say this and that variety of squash is resistant to the squash bug — when in fact they truth of the matter is — the variety is resistant to the Squash Vine Borer (usually because of its thick stem). And is in no way resistant to the squash bug.  This is so prevalent that I’ve become skeptical about any article on the subject.

In spite of all that, I found myself ordering the seed for Zucchetta which is suppose to be resistant to the squash bug. Zucchetta can be grown on a strong trellis and is a vigorous grower. It’s said to be somewhat firmer than regular zucchini, but mild and delicious. (I got my seed from Pinetree Garden Seeds.)

Bottom Line: If you order something that is suppose to be squash bug resistant — don’t get too excited about it until you’ve grown it.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, I’ve given you some information you didn’t already have and more tactics to enable you to win your war with squash bugs.

Wishing you a great harvest of curcubits!

____________

Related Posts:

Squash Bugs – End of the Season Strategy

Grow Bags – Problems they can Solve in the Garden

____

Sources:

Dawn Dishwashing Liquid

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous Earth and Duster

Dr. Bronners Castile Soap

Eucalyptus Oil

Gloves

Grow Bags

Kirk’s Castile Soap – Bar

Kirk’s Soap – various

Mini Bug Vac – Handheld

Pyganic

Row Covers: Gardeners Supply and Amazon

Safer End-All

Safer Brand Insect Killing Soap

Safer Tomato and Vegetable Insect Killer

Torch

Water Wand

_____

Organic Gardening is easy, effective, efficient —- and it’s a lot healthier.

_____

All content including photos is copyright by TendingMyGarden.com.  All Rights Reserved.


33 comments to Squash Bugs – Tactics for Winning the War

  • Sandra

    Theresa, Now this article is a keeper!! A lot like your onion and tomato posts. It is great to have all the diverse information pulled together and explained so clearly in one place. I also like that you don’t make any promises – what works for me might not work for you because we have different situations, varieties, soil, gardens, neighboring properties and on and on. I read a lot of gardening stuff and some of this was new to me – particularly the bug blender recipe – yuck!

    I will say, for any other readers – that any time I’ve done what Theresa suggested, it’s worked! So I’m going to incorporate as much of this as is practical for me.
    Nice job here!

  • Theresa

    Glad to know I succeeded Sandra! Appreciate your letting me know!
    Theresa

  • gayle

    This is the most comprehensive article I’ve ever seen on squash bug control. Honestly, Theresa, I think you could publish it in pamphlet form. All the other info out there is piecemeal.

    Thank you!

    Gayle

  • Theresa

    I really appreciate your saying this Gayle. One of the reasons I did this is because — as you said — most information you find is piecemeal and I thought it would really be great to have something that told almost the entire scoop in one place.

    I had thought of making it in PDF form to give on request. I’m still thinking about that and if time allows I probably will.

    I hope that it offered you at least one tactic that you didn’t already know.
    Thanks for commenting, Gayle.
    Theresa

  • Alice

    Congratulations, excellent article. It was so nice to read all of what I have seen here and there over the years compiled into one. That along with your personal recommendations and experience make this a definate keeper. Thank you so much.

    We have had squash bugs once. It was late summer. I looked, squished and wham, they were gone. I have replanted that area (outside of my regular garden) again this year and think I will put some DE around the base of the plants as a precaution. Tip: I put my DE in a “pouf” bottle with a small tip, made for mustard or ketchup and it works great.

  • Theresa

    Thanks Alice.
    That was an excellent tip about putting the DE in a one of “pouf” bottles. I’m sure lots of folks will pick up on that.
    Thanks for commenting.
    Theresa

  • If I were a bug, I wouldn’t want to meet you in a dark alley, Theresa! Thank you for this invaluable information! Wonderful! Wonderful!

  • Theresa

    Thank you Bearfoot Mama — for the compliment and the laugh!
    Theresa

  • Steve

    Thanks for this article, Theresa – I finally got around to reading it. So far I haven’t had much trouble with squash bugs but now I know what to look out for and how to deal with them if I see them. Last year my cucumbers and musk melon were decimated by cucumber beetles and am trying to prevent that from happening again with row cover etc. If you ever get motivated to write about cucumber beetles I’ll be extremely interested!

  • Theresa

    Thanks for the encouragement to write on cuke beetles, Steve. Sooner or later I’ll get to it. Don’t know when.
    Glad you haven’t had much trouble with the squash bugs!!
    Theresa

  • Jennifer Smith

    What an incredible resource, thank you for sharing your knowledge, Teresa. I saw my first squash bug last week but couldn’t get out into my garden for longer than it took to harvest ripe produce due to the heat wave. I started yesterday with my plan of attack and have already killed about 10 squash bugs and been on a seek and destroy mission for eggs. I’m finding the duct tape technique most effective for eggs and also for catching the squash bugs!! They get stuck on the tape, I fold the piece over, and “squish” :) I’ll be leaving for vacation soon and will be away for 9 days. I was planning on doing a final check of the garden the day before I leave, but the person who will be harvesting for me while I’m gone won’t be able to do a squash bug check or egg check. Is there anything extra I can do before I leave to discourage the pests from taking over while I’m gone?

  • Theresa

    Hi Jennifer -
    Sure am glad that you found my post on squash bugs helpful!
    Wish I had good news for you about going on vacation —- but unfortunately the squash bugs will be multiplying while you’re gone. The only way to keep them in check is nose to nose “seek and destroy” everyday.

    When you get back — get out to your garden and check conditions and start killing again immediately. And when your squash plants are finished — be sure to leave them in the garden as a “trap” and kill the ones on the dead plants EVERYDAY. You could probably go on this way for about 2 weeks. After you feel you have them all — remove the dead dried up plants from the garden.

    Good Luck! Let me know what you find when you return from vacation.
    Theresa

  • Jennifer Smith

    Theresa,
    Thanks so much for your response. I returned from vacation and everything was not lost to the squash bugs. I immediately set to work destroying whatever eggs, bugs, and instars I could find. A week later and it still seems to be under control. I have little ones who find great joy in helping me spot eggs and know exactly what to look for on the squash leaves.

    Unfortunately I have had to pull 5 squash plants due to SVB infestation; 2 yellow crook neck, 1 zucchini, and 2 pumpkin plants. I did find the borers and kill them all (the zucchini plant had 4 in a very small length of vine!!) and bag up the plants to dispose of. My children, however, are heartbroken.

    Would you happen to know when the latest I can start pumpkins from seed is? If I get some seed into the ground tomorrow, do you think I’d be able to harvest before the frost? (I’m in north/ central VA, right on the border of what’s considered NoVa) We don’t need the pumpkins for Halloween or anything, but more for pies, breads, muffins, and cakes throughout the winter.

    Thanks again for all your information.
    Jennifer

  • Theresa

    Sorry you lost 5 squash plants Jennifer, but all in all I think you did a great job keeping the squash bugs under control and finding the SVB to kill them.
    Regarding pumpkins:
    It’ll take a week or 2 to germinate and then pumpkins usually take 100 to 120 days to reach maturity depending on the variety. You’d be into mid-November before they were mature ——- and whether or not they make it that far depends on the weather.
    So it really depends if you want to take the chance. The worse that can happen is that you’ll loose them. If by some miracle you got pumpkins the kids would be thrilled!!!
    Theresa

  • Erin

    Hi there,
    Regarding floating row covers, I’m wondering what you mean by “hand pollinating” beneath the covers? Just wondering how to do this! Your blog is so helpful, thanks for writing!!

  • Theresa

    Erin — this is such a good question and I think a lot of gardeners might want to know the answer. Also did you know there are other good reasons to hand-pollinate other than using row covers?

    Rather than give the complete answer here, I’ll write up a post and try to get it up tonight.

    Thanks for reading and thanks for bring this up.
    Theresa

  • alwys4hm

    Thanks for all the good info. I decided to try a soapy solution after reading your site and others. I think I truly have the squash bugs on serious retreat. Two evenings ago I used about 2 tablespoons with 1 gallon water in a pump sprayer, I sprayed under and around the whole plant, they died by the hundreds because I let my plant go to near death, major squash bug population. Nearly every squash bug died since I thoroughly soaked them. The others came out of cover like soldiers in a fox hole when they see a grenade. I was able to kill many by hand as well. Afterward I thoroughly rinsed the plant and drove more out. Rinsing the plant probably saved my plant from serious setback or death. We are having 95+ temp. I am doing back to Eden method gardening. No mud. I did the same procedure tonight with same results. Good riddance squash bugs. My Zucchini is saved!

  • Theresa

    Good work! Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • alwys4hm

    Theresa I am needing advice

    On the squash bugs I think I am winning the war. I have only one concern I am spraying soap every 2-3 days on the base of the zucchini plants, can it be over done? Every time I spray I find more adults the nymphs are becoming very few. I am amazed at how many stink bugs there are! The plants are revitalizing with new growth and look to soon produce again for fall. There is a dramatic turn around but curious if the plants can be sprayed too much with dish soap. I am still rinsing after every spray. Also still using about 2 tablespoons every gallon of water.
    Thanks for your service
    Steve

  • Theresa

    Steve — as you know by reading my post — the amount of soap you are using is about twice what is usually recommended. However — if you are using it —-rinsing — and not having any trouble you may be just fine. Continue to watch for any bad results so you can take appropriate action if the situation calls for it.

    Sounds like you are doing well with this strategy and even the amount of soap you are using. Let me know how it continues.
    Theresa

  • Theresa
    I am sure the zucchini plants were saved by using the soap formula and the number of times I did the treatment. What I am now not sure of is will I get a fall crop. It appears all the old leaves that were on the plant after drenching with soap and then rinsing are now yellowing. The new growth is substantial I think, but the produce is yellowing as well. It does not help that the day time temps have been 90+ degrees since I wiped out most of the squash bugs going back to August 25th. What are the chances I will receive some more zucchini from these plants? There may be a couple of new starts of fruit that are not yellowing. Did I try to save the zucchini a bit late? The new growth is very healthy looking. I keep all yellowing and dead leaves trimmed off.
    Steve

  • Theresa

    Steve,
    There is no way to know for sure at this point if you’ll get a fall crop or not. You just have to play it out and see what happens.

    I’d feel better about it if the produce was not yellowing as well as the leaves. But that still does not mean you can’t get some zucchini from all this. The fact that the new growth is looking healthy is promising.

    You’ve got a 50/50 chance Steve. Hang in there — it’s called gardening. :)
    Theresa

  • Jeanne

    My squash bugs are out of control. I was wondering since they live in the ground can you kill them in the ground before they come out either in the fall or spring?

  • Theresa

    Jeanne — I don’t know how you would find them in the ground to kill them. They stay as adults.
    Theresa

  • Tammy Romero

    Have you had any luck with predatory nematodes?

  • Theresa

    Tammy – I’ve mentioned using predatory nematodes in previous posts. They work very well on many things, but unfortunately I don’t think the squash bug is on their menu. They usually attack various grubs, maggots, cutworms and caterpillars. If you go to http://www.arbico-organics.com/category/beneficial-nematodes you can read what the various nematodes attack.
    Theresa

  • Lily

    Hi Theresa,

    The info you have was very complete and inclusive. We found that this summer because we planted native shrubs and plants that we drew more predatory insects to our urban community garden. Many of the squash bugs that we collected had eggs laid in their abdomens. Thank you for all the complete information you have shared.

  • Theresa

    What an interesting find Lily! Sure appreciate your sharing it.
    Thanks so much.
    Theresa

  • Deanna Diebler

    I came here hoping to see some miraculous spray someone invented to PREVENT them from even coming in your garden. Ha ha, I must have been delirious. I envy the people who go after those rotten squash bugs. I swore last year that I would not go through the anguish again.(about 5 years) Gardening is supposed to be fun. So I will stick with my tomatoes, peppers etc. and wish everyone luck with their squash and pumpkin plants.

  • Theresa

    I think everyone who’s had squash bugs can relate to how you feel Deanna!
    Have a great gardening season.
    Theresa

  • Ron

    Thank you Theresa for the article. I had a horrible time with squash last year so am planting no more–squash bugs, powdery mildew, aphids, & vine borers. The soap solution worked well on the bugs. A pumpkin sprouted this year and I am letting it grow. Have already had squash bugs. I’m thinking of giving up if it becomes too much of a burden, but am thinking it may attract the pests away from my melons & cucumber.

  • Theresa

    Squash bugs are definitely awful! No doubt about it, Ron.
    Of course, they love pumpkins and as you noted, it just might help keep them away from your melons and cucumbers. Still continue to be diligent in killing all you see. Otherwise they’ll move to the melons and cukes more quickly.
    Good luck this season!
    Theresa

  • dave

    i sprayed eucalyptus oil an water on my garden today- it wilted all of my veggies- ill have to find something else…

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