How to Grow: Controlling Squash Bugs

Learn how to control squash bugs in the vegetable garden.

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Podcast Transcript

After having eaten enough straight necks, crooknecks, and patty pans and have played enough games of zucchini bowling and juggling to last a lifetime, I sometimes welcome insect attacks on squash. Yes, summer squash and zucchinis are prolific, but they do attract certain pests that can downright kill the plant. Let’s talk about the big two: squash bugs and squash vine borers.

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Squash bugs are probably the most hated squash pest. These grey bugs congregate on the underside of squash leaves feeding and eventually killing the leaves. They’re prolific and can quickly decimate your plants. To control squash bugs plant zucchinis instead of summer squash, cover the plants with floating row covers, and place boards between rows to collect and squish the bugs in the morning (just remember they’re in the stink bug family and so smell when squished). Also try spraying neem oil on plants and clean up the garden well in fall to reduce the population.

Squash vine borers are devious. The adult lays eggs on the squash stems near the soil line. The eggs hatch and the caterpillar tunnels into the squash stem and starts eating its way to the tip. The leaves wilt easily and eventually whole stems die. To prevent squash vine borer damage plant in early July and cover new plants with floating row covers to prevent egg laying, check often for holes in the base of the plant and, if found, get ready for surgery. With a razor slit the stem going away from the base until you find the wormy bugger. Remove and squish him, then cover the stem with soil so it heals and re-roots. Some gardeners have had good success injecting the organic pesticide, But, into the stems to kill the caterpillars without removing them.

From The Vermont Garden Journal on Vermont Public Radio.