Oh, those pesky squash bugs………..

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This is the time of year your squash is or has been producing loads of squash.  Then one morning you go out to your garden to pick and there they are…..The dreaded squash bug.  YUCK! 

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!


Filed under Gardening

15 responses to “Oh, those pesky squash bugs………..

  1. Rob

    Someone said squash bugs don’t like mint plants. I was thinking why not mist them with mint water :D. I guess they don’t like cloves either.
    I am happy to hear that organic soil keeps the bugs away.

    • Squash bugs are tough little buggers! Mint plants will help some, but they can get out of hand in a garden unless grown in pots. You can spray with mint water, using essential oils diluted, but when the smell is gone, so is the defense. Petunias also help repel squash bugs.

  2. Rob

    What about manure?
    I buy bags of “compost and manure” to ammend the soil with.
    Will manure attract bugs?

    • They like to hide under it if not mixed with the soil. The manure will not attract them anymore than compost, but when adding good compost you are improving your soil which will make a healthier plant! A healthier plant will not attract bugs near as much.

  3. Judith

    My squash were inundated with the little buggers so we followed your suggestion and it worked great. The torch is now part of our garden tools!

  4. Kim D

    That was fun! Burning buggies! Yay! This was the best idea! I abhorred the thought of having to touch them. I have no problem hand picking Japanese beetles, but these squash bugs are UGLY!

    • Ali

      It is fun. I haven’t had squash bugs this year so I had to get the neighbors buggers. Now they have a torch and I’m out of a job! LOL

  5. Sandi

    I spray the SB with water with Dawn dish washing soap added to it and they die within a minute. sandi

    • Joyce

      I used the Dawn last year and this year and the little buggers just kept coming. I am looking forward to trying the torch next year.

  6. Carolyn

    This is my first try at gardening, and I decided to cover the ground with about 6 to 8 inches of hay as a mulch to be as organic as possible. Now, I have a squash bug infestation and feel very discouraged. Will I need to discard all the mulch at the end of the season or can I till it back into the ground for the winter? I had the most beautiful zucchini, spaghetti and butternut squash before the bugs, and have harvested many squash…should I just pull the plants up? Also, some of the plants are still producing…are the squash safe to eat?

    • Ali

      DON”T get discouraged! First time gardeners are in the learning stages…Each year it gets better and better and more rewarding. With that, I’m not saying seasoned gardeners don’t get discouraged as well. But, there is a new crop, a new season just around the corner. Your resident squash bugs probably really liked the hay mulch to hide in and get well established. I use a fine compost mulch, it’s not as easy for the buggers to hide. Just a thought! Till in your hay, no sense in tossing a good soil amendment. Turn your soil a couple of times so it can really break down before next season and it gets rid of hiding places for insects of all kinds. The squash can still be eaten, no problem unless it is immature winter squash. It won’t keep long. The squash plants should be pulled up and discarded if they are limp, dead or no longer producing, but if they are hanging in there and still putting off fruits, you can leave them in. I plant my squash later than most people do here in Southern Utah. One, I don’t have room until the garlic comes up and two, I bypass most bug problems. EEEKS! They are in other gardens first! Keep up the gardening!

      • Carolyn

        Thank you so much for your prompt and encouraging reply. The squash continue to carry on and I will, in fact, also carry on, especially since I now have you in my corner! I assume that since I live in central Missouri our growing challenges might not be the same, but I do have another question, which might seem obvious to most people…not me… but when you wrote that you use a fine compost mulch, what exactly do you mean? Is this compost you have “made” or is it something you buy?

      • Ali

        I use both bought compost and compost I make. I just can not produce enough for my place. My compost usually has larger pieces than bagged compost unless I screen it. I don’t always chip things to fine pieces. No matter, just the larger chunks gives those little bugger a place to hide. Making your own is always better, but in a pinch I grab the bagged.
        Oh I am very sure our climates vary drastically! We are dry here, receiving about 12″ of rain on a good year. This year we have only received 5″ with summer temps of 115. Holy Cow! Looking forward to a hopeful wet fall!

  7. Cheryl

    I had my first garden this year. I was successful in
    Keeping the squash bugs down by going out in the morning when the buggers were slow and using a pair of pruners would get close and then cut of the heads of them. I wasn’t sure how to kill them but they didn’t care about the sevin and the soap and water seemed to injure my leaves. When it got hot and humid, I placed straw around the base to preserve moisture and found this to be a HUGE Mistake because they would drop off the leaves into the abyss of straw. I made a huge mistake I think.. I threw the cut leaves with eggs into my open compost bin that’s only 10 feet away from my garden. I am afraid they are wintering over in the bin which has too many branches and grass and rotten vegetables. And suckers to turn. That they will have wintered over to come back with a vengeance next year. I am in zone 5. Gets really cold here and is predicted to have snow. I have placed straw around my strawberries, garlic raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and have planted a cover crop of winter rye and hary vetch in my raised beds. I am considering covering with reemay, using plastic mulch and a drip system next year but am afraid that the squash bugs will hide underneath.. And currently they are also wintering over in other areas where I used straw. I really need some guidance what to do to lessen the problem next year… Ps I have a torch and plant to BBQ those bugs next year.
    Should I pull up the straw from all over? Rent a chipper and put the compost in a closed bin that gets HOT? Please help

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