Squash bugs literally suck the life out of your plants. Squash bugs damage crops by sucking the sap from the leaves of the squash or pumpkin. They pierce the leaves with their mouth parts to feed on the plant. If the plant cannot withstand the amount of feeding, you will start to see damaged leaves around your garden . Leaves wilt rapidly and eventually turn yellow and then brown and crispy. In the early growing season, young plants are especially susceptible to death by squash bugs. Older plants are hardier, but excessive feeding will still kill them. Female squash bugs begin to lay their eggs in early June through summer. Eggs hatch within ten days and the nymph will become an adult within four weeks.
When I first started my garden I had, what felt like millions of squash bugs roaming my garden and destroying all my squash plants. Over the years I have built my soil up by adding compost, organic fertilizers and nothing chemical to break down the soil, but rather, build up the soil and feed the earth. The plants have become healthier due to the soil and therefore they are more resistant to bugs and diseases. Last year I planted a pumpkin patch in an area that was a driveway/parking spot for 22 years. Very compacted and no nutrients in the soil. Once again I had a battle of squash bugs in that spot and just 40 feet away in my amended garden, not one squash bug dared enter. But there are several organic choices to help you repel the squash bug. Prevention is the first step to take. Once the little squash plants have emerged from the ground I sprinkle kelp meal around the base of the plant. Not only does it feed the plant and give it the minerals it needs, the squash bugs don’t seem to like the smell of it and stay away. I only use a couple of tablespoons and sprinkle once a week. I have used with good success an organic spray called End All and another called Neem Py. Both of these will kill nymphs, but seem to have little effect on adult as does a chemical, but they are a great spray to repel and kill the little ones. I spray every 7-10 days through the season, but I never spray the flowers! The flowers have visitors (your pollinators) and I don’t want to make them sick or discourage them. It’s best to spray in the evening time.
It’s so important to pay close attention to your plants. A couple of missed days can mean an infestation.. I inspect mine early morning. Living in an arid climate I can give my plants a spray of water and come back a few minutes later and if there is squash bugs present, they will surface. They don’t like the water and they run to the tops of the plants. If you live in an area that is humid or cool, you won’t want to do this because you can cause powdery mildews. Look under the leaves for movement. Don’t let one of those little buggers get away! If your squimish and don’t want to squish them, carry a jar with a little water in it to dump them in. I had an old farmer tell me a trick he uses to get rid of his bugs, and for years I thought of it as silly. Finally after I came to my senses and decided not to be close minded I thought I would give it a try……..Oh my goodness, it really works. I have put a video on this blog so you can see how easy it is and how it works. It’s a torch to burn the bugs. Use a quick movement over the squash bug. It quickly singes the bug without hurting the plant. You don’t want to hold the torch in on spot or you WILL burn your plant of course, but a quick movement will do the trick. The torch I use is (I robbed it out of my husbands tool box…shhhh!) is a bernzomatic TS 400. It has an electric pizeo lighter which makes it quick to light and get the job done. You can use it on the eggs as well, but you have to hold the flame on a little longer to kill the eggs, so it will scorch to leaves a little bit.
Over the years of amending your soil and learning fertilizing techniques to make healthier plants you will se a decline in squash bugs. Remember that prevention is worth a pound of cure! Be patient and keep after those stinky little buggers!