The invaders are here! The little monsters are my sworn enemies: squash bugs and squash vine borers. These little terrors cause no small amount of frustration and heartache because they can decimate a squash crop in no time at all.
Squash Vine Borers
Squash vine borers are flying red bodied insects that lay eggs on squash plants (winter or summer squash) and the larvae bore into the stem, munching their way through the middle of the plant stems cause the water flow to the squash plant to be cut off. The very first tell-tail signs that they are doing their nasty munch is that they will leave what looks like sawdust on the stems where they tunnel in, and if you look closely you will see little holes by the “sawdust”.
If these pests are not stopped the squash plant will start to droop and wilt and at that point it is almost too late.
Squash bugs lay their red eggs on the leaves of squash plants. The eggs are usually in a cluster and are red in color.
When hatched the little baby squash bugs go to work sucking the sap out of squash plants, causeing the plants to wilt and die. How do you know you have them? You can’t miss them. The grayish-brown pests scurry around all over the squash plant but mainly congregate at the base.
What’s a Gardener to Do?
Since no nasty sprays will enter my garden, I have to resort to a more hands-on approach to pest fighting. If you have squash problems like I do, you may want to try what I have.
1. Monitor squash plants daily. You won’t know if you have problems unless you are out there taking a peak at all your plants on a regular basis.
2. For Squash Vine Borers: Poke ‘em. This is a trick I learned at the historic farm I work at. Using a large needle, poke holes all the way through the stems of your plant every half inch starting where you see the “sawdust”.
Squash Vine Borers sit in the middle of the stems so poking it will ensure that you skewer them, thus causing them to loose all their moisture and die. This will need to be done several times (every few days) in order to be successful. Every time you see that tell-tail sawdust, get your poker out.
3. For Squash Bugs: Smash ‘em. Look for the red eggs. Gently scrape them off and squish them or use the sticky side of duct tape to get them off. See a bunch of baby squash bugs? As quickly as you can, squish them. Big adults? Squish them too. This may sound gross but it must be done and a true garden warrior gets it done. The bugs are rather fast so you need to be on your toes. You can also have a small container filled with soapy water to flick them into if you are not keen on the smashing. Squash bugs are also fans of hiding under things so you can leave a few layers of newpaper or cardboard on the dirt by your plant in the evening. In the morning, either crumple up the newspaper, thus smashing all the bugs or quickly flip the cardboard over and step on as many as you can.
Using these methods, I have greatly reduced the number of squash bugs, and so far I have not had any of my squash plants succumb to the borers. I think I am driving back the invaders!