- Feb 22, 2011To preserve sales, control pumpkin pests
- Understand Pumpkin Anatomy
- Start by Picking the Right Pumpkin
- Clean Out All of the Guts
- Treat the Outside to Delay Rotting
- Spray the Inside With Bleach Water
- Light a Citronella Candle Inside
- Keep the Jack-o-Lantern Out of the Sun
- Store Your Jack-o-Lantern in the Fridge
- Save the Squash: How to Kill Squash Bugs
- What Is a Squash Bug?
- The Squash Bug Lifecycle
- Identifying Squash Bug Damage
- Control of Squash Bugs: Barriers
- Plant Resistant Varieties
- Use Transplants Rather Than Planting Seeds
- Chickens and Guinea Hens
- Crop Rotation
- Squash Bugs Control Products
- How to Kill Squash Bugs: Manual Egg Removal and Hand-picking Adults
- Trap and Pick
- Natural Predators for Squash Bugs
- Squash Bug Control: Garden Cleanup
- How to Control and Prevent Squash Bugs in Your Garden
- Cultural Controls
- Effective Control Products
- Identify the Culprit
- Stamp Out Those Squash Bugs
- Prevent Future Squash Bug Infestations
- Squash Bug – Vegetables
- Gray insects on squash
- Life Cycle/Habits
- Host Plants
- Additional Resources
- Pumpkin Insect Control – Dealing With Pumpkin Insect Pests
- Pumpkin Insect Problems
- Squash Bug Damage
- How To Get Rid Of Squash Bugs
- Quick Facts about Squash Bugs
- Where Do Squash Bugs Come From?
- Types of Squash Bug
- Life Cycle
- What Do They Eat?
- Symptoms of Squash Bug Infestation
- Squash Bugs Pest Control
Feb 22, 2011To preserve sales, control pumpkin pests
Pumpkin sales in late September and October are often the key to profitability. As a result, pest management is essential to ensure an adequate supply of pumpkins is available during this critical period. Several insects attack pumpkins in the Midwest. Table 1 shows the frequency and severity of several of these pests.
The squash bug is usually the most consistent pest of pumpkins in the Midwest, and is relatively difficult to control. Consistent monitoring and early detection is the key to proper management. Adults become active in late April or early May. Adults are about five-eighths of an inch long and gray or black. Eggs use laid-in clusters of up to 20, usually in the angle formed by two veins on the underside of leaves. Newly laid eggs are yellowish but become bronze-colored after a couple of days. Nymphs look much like adults, except they are smaller and lighter in color. Nymphs will usually congregate in groups, so they are relatively easy to find if they are present.
Both adults and nymphs feed with their sucking mouthparts to remove sap from the plant. Later in the season, squash bugs will feed directly on the fruit, sometimes to the point of causing the fruit to collapse.
Cucurbit Yellow Vine Decline appears to be vectored by squash bugs. The causal agent of this disease is a bacterium that colonizes the phloem. It takes four weeks after infection for symptom to appear, but once they do the entire vine may decline in just a few days. The aboveground symptoms look similar to what you might expect from squash vine borers or a root disease. Research has shown that the only way to avoid this disease problem is to successfully control the squash bug.
Seedling plants should be inspected frequently for the presence of squash bugs or wilting symptoms. Insecticides should be applied whenever wilting is observed and squash bugs are present. When plants reach the early flowering stage, they should be scouted for the presence of squash bug eggs. Fields that average more than one egg mass per plant need to be treated.
You will achieve maximum control when you time your sprays to coincide with egg hatch. You should begin your spray program early in the hatching period. The pyrethroid insecticides (Asana, Brigade, Mustang Max, Pounce and Warrior) provide the best levels of control.
The spotted cucumber beetle appears later in the season because it overwinters in Southern states and must migrate to the Midwest. Cucumber beetles have black legs and bellies, while the rootworm beetles have yellow.
Cucumber beetles damage pumpkins by feeding on stems, leaves and fruit and can vector bacterial wilt of cucurbits. While this disease can be devastating to cantaloupes and cucumbers, pumpkins are only vulnerable to bacterial wilt when the plants are young. Once the plants have been in the field two to three weeks, they are unlikely to contract the disease.
When plants are young, fields should be scouted frequently because the beetles can rapidly build up to very large numbers. At the seedling stage, treatment is justified when populations average one beetle per plant.
There are three strategies for chemical control: seed treatments, in-furrow treatments and foliar sprays. The FarMore DI400 seed treatment contains three fungicides and the insecticide thiamethoxam, and has been shown to provide control at the two-leaf stage – comparable to in-furrow treatment with Admire Pro.
Foliar sprays should be used only when populations exceed five beetles per plant, because excessive sprays will reduce natural enemy populations and may result in outbreaks of aphids or mites. The pyrethroid insecticides generally provide the most effective and economical control. However, these insecticides are harsh against natural enemies and don’t provide much control of either aphids or mites.
Squash vine borer
Squash vine borer is a greater concern in small plantings and backyard gardens than in larger commercial production. Growers who have had problems with squash vine borer will often have problems year after year, while other growers may never have serious problems.
The adult squash vine borer is a clear-winged moth that looks like a wasp. The female will lay eggs singly on the vines, often near the crown. The newly hatched larva will eat its way into the vine and start consuming the vascular tissue. At times, one borer feeding in the crown of a plant can kill the entire plant, but more commonly a borer will cause wilting.
There will often be frass (insect poop) coming out of the hole where the borer entered the plant. If you find the frass, cut open the vine to confirm that a borer is causing the problem. If you find borer damage, make two insecticide applications spaced five to seven days apart, directed at the base of the plants.
There are a number of aphid species that will attack pumpkins, but they all cause similar damage. The direct damage usually is insignificant. However, many species of aphids carry viruses that reduce pumpkin yields. In addition, when aphid populations are high close to harvest, their feces, known as honeydew, act as a substrate for the growth of black sooty mold.
Aphids reproduce without mating and produce live young. Aphids are usually kept at reasonably low numbers by a variety of natural enemies, including parasitic wasps, lady beetles, lacewings and syrphid fly larvae. Outbreaks often occur when natural enemies are killed by insecticides.
Later-planted pumpkins often have considerably more yield loss due to viruses. It is generally thought that insecticides are not an effective way of stopping aphids from transmitting viruses to pumpkin plants. Even if the insecticide kills the aphid, the plant is still infected. However, keeping aphid populations low can help to reduce the secondary spread of virus throughout the field. In years when soybean aphids are numerous, pumpkins are especially vulnerable because the migrating soybean aphids infect plants with viruses when they pause to determine if they are on a good host plant.
Mites can increase rapidly to high populations when weather conditions are favorable, namely during hot, dry weather with few heavy rainstorms. Mites can also be more severe near a dusty road. Look on the underside of leaves for the colonies, which will often be accompanied by webbing. It’s important to discover the infestations before you start to see wilting, because much of the damage will already be done at that point.
Mite infestations are often localized, so it’s possible only a portion of the field will require treatment. Acramite, Agri-Mek, Epi-mek and Oberon will provide good to excellent control.
– By Rick Foster, Purdue University
Tags: Crop Management, Crop Protection, Cucumbers, Equipment, Marketing, Melons, Pumpkins-Squash
One of the most time-honored fall traditions is carving a pumpkin into a jack-o-lantern. It’s something that kids, adults and insects look forward to as soon as the leaves start changing colors. After hours laboring over every detail, the last thing you want is a swarm of hungry bugs feasting on your Halloween decor.
The freshly-opened insides of a pumpkin are just too tempting for most bugs to pass up. It’s like putting a bowl of opened candy on your front porch, especially once the pumpkin starts rotting.
But that’s not going to happen this fall. We’ve rounded up our top tips on how to keep your jack-o-lantern looking great and free of yard pests well beyond Halloween.
Understand Pumpkin Anatomy
First things first, preserving a jack-o-lantern begins with understanding what will cause a pumpkin to rot. The flesh of a pumpkin acts as a protective layer, much like human skin. As soon as you pierce through a pumpkin’s skin it’s vulnerable to insects, mold, bacteria and fungi. All of these things will speed up decomposition.
Oxygenation also causes molecular changes that lead to rot. Dehydration is another problem that will cause a jack-o-lantern to look shriveled and withered.
Start by Picking the Right Pumpkin
For advice on picking the best pumpkin we defer to the master of home decor – Martha Stewart. Generally speaking, you want to avoid picking a pumpkin that’s already on its last leg since it will start to decompose and attract flies much quicker. Ms. Stewart says a fresh pumpkin should be deep orange and the stem should be bright green.
Cucurbitologists (pumpkin experts) also suggest looking for a very firm pumpkin that’s free of blemishes. Wounds, frost damage and holes are weak spots that give insects easy access.
Clean Out All of the Guts
The pulp inside the pumpkin is the most delicious part. The less there is to nosh on, the fewer bugs there will be looking for a free meal. After cutting a hole in the top of the pumpkin, use a spoon or spatula to scrape the inside clean. You may need to apply a bit of pressure to remove it all. Bonus: Removing all of the pulp also reduces mold growth inside the jack-o-lantern.
Treat the Outside to Delay Rotting
Most jack-o-lanterns begin to rot about a week after carving. You can prolong the life of your jack-o-lantern by treating the outside with lemon juice. Once you’re done carving, rub lemon juice on the outside of the pumpkin.
The acid in the lemon juice helps maintain the color, delays rotting and keeps insects away by preventing oxygen from interacting with enzymes in the pumpkin. You can also use vaseline or vegetable oil to create a protective barrier.
Spray the Inside With Bleach Water
You can protect the outside of the pumpkin with lemon juice, but what about the fleshy inside? Spraying the inside of your jack-o-lantern with a solution of one teaspoon of bleach to one gallon of water can provide three benefits.
First, it will prevent many bugs from crawling around inside. Bleach taste just as bad to bugs as it does to humans. Second, bleach water helps the pumpkin stay moist inside to delay rotting. Third, bleach is an antimicrobial solution that prevents mold growth.
Light a Citronella Candle Inside
Light has a way of attracting some insects, which means your illuminated jack-o-lantern is a bug beacon. That is, unless you use a citronella candle inside. Then suddenly your jack-o-lantern becomes a way to get rid of bugs rather than attracting them. But keep one thing in mind – candles of any kind can shorten the life of a pumpkin by heating up the inside.
Keep the Jack-o-Lantern Out of the Sun
Be mindful of where you place your jack-o-lanterns out in the yard. Sun exposure will speed up the decomposition process of the pumpkin once you cut into it. Avoid direct sunlight whenever possible by putting the jack-o-lantern on the porch where it’s also up off the ground.
Store Your Jack-o-Lantern in the Fridge
Prolonging the life of your jack-o-lantern and protecting it from bugs also depends on how you store it. Ideally, pumpkins should be kept around 50-65 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperatures dip below that jack-o-lanterns should be brought inside to avoid freezing. A freeze will inevitably lead to thawing, which speeds up the decomposition process.
Some people clear out space in their fridge for the jack-o-lantern so it continues looking fresh for as long as possible. Storing the jack-o-lantern in the fridge overnight also prevents early morning and nocturnal insects that bite at night from munching on the pumpkin.
Did your jack-o-lantern invite a pest infestation? The team at Vulcan Termite and Pest Control Inc. can provide custom pest control treatments as well as personalized advice on how to prevent pests around your home this fall. Give us a call today to schedule an on-site inspection.
Original Source: https://www.vulcantermite.com/seasonalpests/keep-bugs-jack-o-lantern/
Save the Squash: How to Kill Squash Bugs
Zucchinis, cucumbers, melons and pumpkins are some of the easiest vegetables to grow — until the squash bugs take over, that is. Squash bugs attack squash and related plants. They can decimate your squash patch seemingly overnight.
Gardeners seeking to combat squash bug infestations need to learn how to recognize eggs, nymphs and adults. Once identified, you can use the right control to rid your garden of squash bugs.
What Is a Squash Bug?
Originally from Central America, the squash bug (Anasa tristis) is a small 5/8″, brownish-black insect. The body appears armor plated, but it’s actually covered by tiny black hairs that help the squash bug feel its way around the plants. They can fly, and on warm days, they will take a short jaunt to find a mate and food. Squash bugs are sometimes mistaken for stink bugs, but they do not produce the telltale odor that a stink bug does when it’s threatened.
The Squash Bug Lifecycle
Adult squash bugs overwinter in garden debris such as fallen leaves. They can also hide under rocks, branches and shrubs. In the springtime, just when the garden warms up enough to plant squash and pumpkins, the adults emerge, and they’re hungry. They immediately zoom in on garden patches filled with young squash, cucumber, melon or pumpkin plants. As they gather, adults mate and lay eggs on the underside of the leaves.
Adults feed on squash leaves and stems by piercing the outer layer of the leaf and sucking out the sap. The leaves wilt at first, then curl into brownish-gray clumps and die. If the plant can’t produce enough leaves to replace the dead ones, it eventually dies.
Squash bug eggs are easy to spot. The females lay their eggs in a cluster or clump under the lower leaves of the plant. The eggs are oval-shaped and iridescent bronze or dark bronze-brown in color.
Each cluster of squash bug eggs yields approximately 12 or more larvae. As the larvae emerge, they’re ravenously hungry and want nothing more than to feed on your plants. They move about in groups, feeding in clusters until they’re old enough to spread out.
This new generation of squash bugs will eventually reach adulthood, unless you do something about it, or natural predators get to them. If they survive, it will take approximately five to six weeks for them to grow into an adult. As the days of summer draw to a close, this new generation finds safe places to hunker down for the winter.
Gardens in northern areas may experience only one wave of newly hatched squash bugs each summer. Southern gardeners may have to battle two waves of squash bugs, depending on the warmth of the season. An early spring means a great opportunity for squash bugs to produce two generations of young. Constant vigilance is necessary for squash bug control.
Identifying Squash Bug Damage
Squash bugs damage crops in several ways:
- Adults feeding on squash plants suck out the sap, causing the leaves and stems to wilt. Eventually, they destroy plants by killing off all of their leaves, the portion of the plant that makes food through photosynthesis. The plants can’t keep up with the damage and are weakened until they die.
- Larvae and nymphs also feed on leaves and stems, especially lower leaves and stems.
- Adults carry a bacterial disease, Serratia marcescens, also known as cucumber yellow vine disease. Plants infected with this bacteria wilt from both the adult’s feeding action and the bacteria injected into their tissues. Any existing cucumbers or squashes appear stunted and yellowed, and the entire plant may turn yellow before dying. The bacteria can overwinter in the soil, so if you suspect your plants have this disease, grow another type of vegetable in the area for several years until the bacteria is no longer viable in the soil.
Control of Squash Bugs: Barriers
The old saying “the best defense is a good offense” is quite true when it comes to control of squash bugs. Squash bugs are prevalent throughout the United States, and chances are good that there are some in your garden right now.
One of the most effective controls for squash bugs is a simple barrier method called a floating row cover. Row covers are finely woven cloth or plastic fabric barriers that are placed gently over plants. Some are placed over a row of flexible hoops to form a tunnel or miniature greenhouse covering. The row cover allows sunlight and moisture through to the plants, but keeps insects such as squash bugs from landing on the leaves and laying eggs. Row covers are available from online gardening supply catalogs as well as from local nursery and garden centers.
Plant Resistant Varieties
Some plants are more attractive to squash bugs than others. They love any squash, of course, but they also prefer pumpkins and watermelon. They least prefer cucumbers, so if you have a problem one year with squash bugs, try using these controls for squash bugs and plant cucumbers instead of zucchini or other squash varieties. Among squash varieties, butternut and acorn squash are also least appealing to squash bugs.
Use Transplants Rather Than Planting Seeds
Another method to discourage squash bug infestations is to transplant young squash plants into the garden rather than direct-sow seeds. Emerging seedlings are most vulnerable to squash bug attacks, and larger plants are better able to withstand a few assaults. You can start squash plants indoors in cell packs and transplant them outside when they have at least two sets of leaves, and the last frost date is past.
Growing your squash plants on a trellis, lattice or any vertical support can also reduce squash bug infestations. Squash bugs prefer to hide under leaves, between the underside of leaves and the soil surface. This provides them with the best camouflage as well as a cool, moist environment during the summer’s heat. When you grow your squash plants vertically, squash bugs lose much of their preferred environment. Trellising makes it harder for them to hide and makes it easier for predators, including birds and other insects, to find and eat them.
Chickens and Guinea Hens
Not everyone has the luxury of raising their own chickens and guinea hens, but each does a great job of eating squash bugs. Guinea hens also eat ticks and other harmful bugs, and they’re an organic gardener’s best defense against insect infestations. Chickens provide manure for the soil and eggs for your table. If you have hens at home, let them loose in the vegetable garden to help control insect infestations naturally.
Crop rotation won’t prevent squash bugs per se since they will fly to find new food sources. However, if your garden appears infested with yellow cucumber wilt, crop rotation is essential to preventing the bacteria from entering new plants.
Rotating crops is an essential gardening practice that prevents nutrient depletion in the soil and reduces the chance of spreading harmful diseases from year to year among your plants. It’s a simple practice that involves planting a different type of vegetable in a location from year to year. If you’ve planted squash and cucumbers in a garden bed this year, follow it up next year with an unrelated species. Consider a nightshade family plant such as potatoes or tomatoes.
Squash Bugs Control Products
While the typical control methods above can help prevent or stop an infestation, they are often difficult or time-consuming to implement. An easier method for controlling squash bugs is spraying an insecticide that has been approved for use in organic gardening. The following squash bug controls, when applied according to the label directions, kill squash bugs without harming other beneficial insects.
- Neem oil-based sprays: Neem oil, derived from the Indian neem tree, is a powerful insecticide and fungicide. Sprays such as Safer® Brand End ALL™ contain neem as the active ingredient and can be used against squash bugs, stink bugs, Japanese beetles and other garden pests without harming beneficial insects when used as directed.
- Insecticidal soaps: Insecticidal soaps coat the leaves of plants, making them unpalatable to insects. Products such as Safer® Brand Insect Killing Soap provide an added benefit of using potassium salts, which weakens the outer coating of the insect’s shell to kill them. Insecticidal soaps do not harm beneficial insects or wildlife.
- Diatomaceous earth: Diatomaceous earth is a product made from ground-up rocks containing diatoms, tiny fossilized sea creatures. It is applied as a powder near plants. Diatomaceous earth doesn’t harm people, pets or wildlife, but the tiny sharp edges of the microscopic fossils cut into the soft bodies of insects such as squash bug larvae and slugs and kill them. Safer® Brand Diatomaceous Earth is available in a convenient four-pound bag to treat the whole garden.
How to Kill Squash Bugs: Manual Egg Removal and Hand-picking Adults
If you grow squash, pumpkins, cucumbers and melons in pots or containers, or you have only a small patch of plants growing in your garden, then manually removing eggs before they hatch into adult squash bugs may be a good control method. When combined with neem oil or insect killing soap, you may be able to keep squash bug damage to a minimum.
All you need to remove squash bug eggs is a spoon, an empty plastic or glass container, water and a bit of dishwashing liquid. Use the bowl of the spoon to scrape the eggs off of the leaves and deposit them into the soapy water. Swish the spoon around in the water and scrape the eggs again if they don’t come off easily the first time around. The soapy water dissolves the thin glue-like substance the female squash bug uses to attach her eggs to the leaves.
Another method to remove squash bug eggs is simpler but can damage plant leaves if you’re not careful. Take a piece of heavy tape such as masking tape and press the sticky side of the tape to the eggs. Then pull it off quickly. It takes some practice to remove the eggs without ripping the leaves, but this method does remove eggs without the use of pesticides.
To hand-pick adults, nymphs and larvae, don your heaviest pair of gardening gloves or a pair of rubber gloves if you’re squeamish. Fill an empty glass jar or plastic container halfway with water and one tablespoon of liquid dishwashing soap.
Use your garden hose to spray water on the infected plants. Squash bugs normally hide during daylight hours, and they’re well-camouflaged among the foliage and vines. When the water hits them, however, they move out from their hiding places and down to the lower branches of the infected plants. As they move, grab them and pop them into the soapy water. The soap coats their legs and wings, and they can’t climb out of the container. Place the lid onto the container and leave it overnight to be sure all the bugs are killed before disposing of the container. You can safely kill nymphs, larvae and adults using this method.
Trap and Pick
Similar to the method of hand-picking squash bugs off of plants after spraying them with a garden hose, you can also trick them into gathering into easily reached spots so you can pick them off of your plants. Some gardeners use boards, while others find recycled roof shingles helpful. Place these near the base of squash plants in the evening. Go out to the garden early the next day with your jar of soapy water and gardening gloves and pick up the board quickly. Adult squash bugs gather under the board or shingle, and if you’re quick enough, you can simply plunk them right into the soapy water before they know what’s hit them.
Natural Predators for Squash Bugs
Nature provides some of its own checks and balances against squash bugs, too. The Tachinid fly is a natural squash bug predator. Organic gardeners plant carrots and flowers such as Queen Anne’s lace near squash plants to attract these natural predators to the vegetable garden. Adult Tachinid flies lay eggs on the squash bugs, and the larvae consume squash bugs as food. Adult flies feed only on nectar and pollen, so they won’t harm your vegetable plants.
Ground beetles and damsel flies will also prey upon squash bug eggs if they can find them. Farmscaping — adding rows of beneficial flowers that nurture natural predators — is a great organic gardening method that not only controls pests naturally, but also adds beauty to the garden and supports pollinating insects.
Squash Bug Control: Garden Cleanup
A cold winter can kill many adults and drastically reduce subsequent feeding damage next spring. While you can’t beg Mother Nature for plenty of snow and ice, you can take away the nice, comfy hiding places where adult squash bugs spend their winter vacation.
Rake up fallen leaves and dispose of them in your compost pile or trash bags. Cut back perennials and pull all spent vegetable plants from the garden. Turn over your compost pile in the fall to unearth any hidden squash bugs.
Although mulch prevents water loss in the garden and suppresses weeds, a thick layer of winter mulch may provide a comfy bed for squash bugs. Instead of using leaves as mulch, switch to pine straw or another type of mulch less likely to attract them. Straw mulch also attracts ground beetles, a natural predator of squash bug nymphs.
Organic gardening practices — such as trapping insects, hand-picking adults and eggs, planting resistant varieties and using Safer® Brand products — maintain the natural ecosystem in the garden. By sticking closer to nature’s method of insect control, you’ll not only prevent squash bugs from ruining your garden, but you’ll also keep the beneficial insects and wildlife healthy, too.
How to Control and Prevent Squash Bugs in Your Garden
Smart gardening practices used to care for your garden can reduce the number of pests, including squash bugs, and help keep your plants healthy. Cultural practices such as regular inspections and good garden sanitation are very important in fighting squash bugs.
Squash bugs like to congregate under objects, such as boards and tarps, during the active season. You can set these objects in the garden near cucurbit crops, and then destroy the squash bugs that hide under them. Also check plants regularly for eggs and destroy any egg masses you find on the plants.
Mulching around cucurbits during the growing season is counterproductive, as it gives the squash bugs a place to hide. Mulches can also give adult squash bugs a place to overwinter. Keep your gardens clean of all old cucurbit vines and crop or leaf debris. With winter hiding places removed, squash bugs rarely survive the cold, so it cuts down on cucurbit invasions the next season. Tilling the soil well after harvest also goes a long way toward eliminating these pests. 2
Effective Control Products
One of the best ways to control squash bugs and keep your cucurbits healthy is to use an effective control product proven to fight difficult squash bugs. Sevin® Insect Killer Ready to Use kills squash bugs and more than 500 other insect pests, including stinkbugs, by contact. You can treat squash, pumpkins, cucumbers and melons right up to one full day before your harvest.
Squash family plants rely on insect pollination to form their fruit, so avoid spraying open blooms where beneficial pollinators, such as squash bees, may visit. With Sevin® Insect Killer Ready to Use and its adjustable spray bottle or Sevin® Insect Killer Concentrate, used with an adjustable pump sprayer, you can easily control the coverage area of your treatment spray to get the precision application you desire. Treat squash plants in the evening to avoid contact with bees that visit plants early in the day, and always follow label instructions. Be sure to cover the undersides of leaves as well as other plant parts.
Squash bugs pose a problem for many vegetable gardeners, but GardenTech® and Sevin® brand garden insecticides are here to help. By following these recommendations, you can minimize squash bugs and their damage and enjoy more of the goodness and nutrition your homegrown produce can offer.
Always read the product label thoroughly and follow the instructions carefully, including guidelines for pre-harvest intervals (PHI) and application frequency.
Sevin is a registered trademark of Tessenderlo Kerley, Inc.
GardenTech is a registered trademark of Gulfstream Home and Garden, Inc.
1. J. Capinera, “Squash Bug,” University of Florida Entomology & Nematology, February 2014.
2. W. Cranshaw, “Squash Bug: Management in Home Gardens,” Colorado State University Extension, January 2013.
Photo Credit: Alan Schmierer
An abundant crop of squash, zucchini, and cucumbers is a delicious reward for your hard gardening work, but if squash bugs find their way into your garden, your plants could wither away before they ever bear fruit.
Squash bugs are highly destructive and hard to get rid of as adults. But with the right approach, you can control even large infestations. Even better, harsh chemicals are rarely necessary. Here’s how to get rid of squash bugs.
Identify the Culprit
Squash bugs are often mistaken for stink bugs and spined soldier bugs thanks to their similar shape. Soldier bugs are harmless and stink bugs require a different treatment approach, so it’s important to know which insect you’re dealing with.
Squash bugs are found only on plants in the Cucurbita genus. They’re most easily recognized by the pronounced points at their shoulders and the dark brown, nearly black spot at the base of their back when their wings are folded. Turning the insect over reveals orange or orange-brown stripes on its abdomen. Like stink bugs, when crushed or found in large numbers, squash bugs give off an unpleasant pungent odor often described as similar to cilantro.
In the early spring, squash bugs lay 1/16-inch light brown or reddish eggs in clusters of 20 to 40 along the veins on the undersides of leaves or on stems. After a week or two, these hatch into spider-like nymphs with white or green bodies and black legs.
Stamp Out Those Squash Bugs
If only a few of your plants are affected, the easiest way to get rid of the bugs is to hand pick them from the plants. Bring a bucket of soapy water out with you and drop in any adults, nymphs or eggs you find.
To make the process easier, lay boards or shingles on the ground under the affected plants. The bugs will shelter under these during the night so you can remove them in the morning. You’ll still need to inspect your plants for nymphs and eggs, though.
Diatomaceous earth, a natural product that’s harmless to people, pets, and plants, can also control with minor infestations. Just sprinkle it on and around any affected plants.
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For more advanced infestations, you might need to apply a pesticide to see any real improvement. Careful application is a must, though, because these insects are often hidden on the undersides of leaves and near the crown (base) of the plant. You’ll need to make sure you reach these areas when you spray the insecticide.
Neem oil, a natural pesticide that comes from the neem tree, is known to be effective against squash bugs. It’s safe for people and pets as well as honeybees and other beneficial insects.
You can buy pure neem oil or choose a commercial insecticide made with this oil. You’ll typically need to apply the product two or three times at intervals of seven to 10 days. But always follow the directions on the product’s label.
Insecticides with Carbaryl
Insecticides containing carbaryl are another option. But they should be a last resort because this chemical is toxic and kills beneficial insects. Carbaryl products work best if applied when the eggs are hatching. So you may need to reapply two or three times.
If you want to try biological control of your squash bugs, the tachinid fly (Trichopoda pennipes) can help. This orange fly lays its eggs on squash bugs, decreasing the bugs’ lifespan and ability to reproduce. They won’t always clear up a squash bug infestation, though, because squash bugs carrying fly eggs can still live long enough to reproduce
Prevent Future Squash Bug Infestations
Keep the Bugs at Bay for Spring
Squash bugs produce only one generation each year in cold-winter climates or two in warm climates. So if you can keep them at bay for spring, you stand a good chance of avoiding any issues for the rest of the growing season. Start by installing floating row covers over seedlings. Leave them up until the vines start to blossom and need pollination. More mature plants are better able to resist squash bug damage.
If you have a long growing season, consider delaying planting until early summer when the bugs have finished laying their eggs.
Throughout the spring, inspect your plants for squash bug eggs at least once a week. It takes just 10 days for the eggs to hatch, so don’t wait too long between inspections.
At the end of the growing season, clean up your vegetable patch to reduce the number of places adult squash bugs can spend the winter lying in wait for your spring crops. Burn or compost dead squash vines, and plow under any remains of the plants left in the soil. Removing any other debris, such as dead stalks and leaves will help, too.
Planning Before You Plant
With good planning before you plant, you’ll have an even lower risk of squash bug problems. Choose squash varieties that are resistant to squash bugs, such as Butternut, Royal Acorn, and Sweet Cheese. Rotate your crops and avoid planting plants in the Cucurbita genus in the same place two years in a row.
Enjoy the benefits of companion planting by planting nasturtium and tansy around your Cucurbita plants. Train vining plants on a trellis to make them less appealing to squash bugs.
While squash bugs have the potential to wreak havoc, keeping your plants safe is really just a matter of staying one step ahead of these bugs. If squash bugs are common in your area, plan ahead before you plant. Even after the bugs have moved in, though, you can still get rid of them using natural methods such as hand removal or neem oil application.
Squash Bug – Vegetables
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Gray insects on squash
Squash bug adult and eggs – Anasa tristis
- Eggs: Shiny, elliptical, rubbery, bronze colored; in clusters of about 20 eggs.
- Nymphs: Newly hatched nymphs are pale green with black legs, and very gregarious. Five instars (growth stages) occur over about a month. Older nymphs are shades of gray in color and also have black legs.
Squash bug nymph
Video: Dr. M. Raupp
- Adults: Moderately large true bugs (have a triangular shaped thorax behind head) about 5/8″ long, dark brownish gray in color. These gregarious bugs have piercing-sucking mouthparts and flattened bodies, with alternate light and dark markings around the edge of the abdomen.
Squash bug adult
Video: Dr. M. Raupp
Squash bug eggs and newly hatched nymphs
- Squash bugs overwinter as adults under plant debris, soil clods, rocks, log piles, and buildings.
- Adults become active around June and are secretive, hiding on plants or in mulch.
- Numerous egg clusters are laid usually on leaf undersides, but occasionally on top of leaves, petioles, stems, flowers or fruit.
- Nymphs are very gregarious and usually feed on shaded undersides of plants.
- Adults are less gregarious but can be found congregating on plant stems at soil level.
- Both nymphs and adults suck plant sap while secreting highly toxic saliva into the leaves, stems, or fruit.
- Adults emit a foul odor when crushed.
- Two generations may occur in Maryland.
- All cucurbits, especially squash and pumpkin. Also cantaloupe, cucumber, gourds, watermelon.
- Squash bug feeding occurs primarily on leaves and stems, but may also occur on fruit.
- Feeding on leaves produces small white dots, or stipples, and leaves will eventually appear tattered.
- Large numbers of squash bugs will cause leaves to yellow and die.
- Plant growth and yield can be significantly reduced.
- Feeding on fruit can produce localized wounds, which may introduce rot.
- Adult bugs may not be readily visible because they are highly secretive.
- In mid-summer it is common to see eggs, nymphs, and adults all at the same time.
Adults and nymphs suck leaf sap
leaving numerous small white dots,
known as stipples
- Regularly turn over leaves to find egg clusters.
- Young nymphs in dense clusters will be easily visible because of vivid red legs.
- Watch for white stippling on leaves, followed by yellowing and browning foliage, and reduced plant vigor.
- Check base of stem and mulch for secretive, congregating adults.
- Place boards nearby and check underneath periodically for hiding adults.
- Floating row covers will prevent egg-laying on plants.
- Egg clusters are difficult to hand crush, so tear out that portion of leaf and destroy. Nymphs can be hand-crushed or drowned in soapy water.
- Neem, horticultural oil, and insecticidal soap are effective when sprayed directly on nymphs. Adults are very difficult to kill with the insecticides available to home gardeners.
- Trap adults and nymphs by placing boards near host plants under which they will hide. Lift boards and destroy bugs in the morning.
- Bugs also hide under mulch. When numbers are high, mulch may need to be removed.
- Removing all plant debris at the end of the growing season is essential.
- Check seed catalogs for cultivars of summer and winter squash that are resistant to squash bugs.
Video” Squash bug control
- Squash Bug and Squash Beetle – Double Trouble
- Stink Bug or Squash Bug – Can you tell the difference?
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Pumpkin Insect Control – Dealing With Pumpkin Insect Pests
Growing pumpkins can be a high risk operation, especially if you’re after a real giant. Big pumpkins can take all summer to grow, and the last thing you want is for your prize specimen to fall victim to pumpkin insect pests. Keep reading to learn about pumpkin insect problems and pumpkin insect control.
Pumpkin Insect Problems
Pumpkins are a favorite food of quite a few insects, and pests on pumpkins can be a real problem. Most, however, are treatable or at least preventable. Here are the most common bugs on pumpkin plants and how to treat them:
- Beetles – Beetles are the most common but easily treated pests on pumpkins. Spray your vines with a mild pesticide and they should disappear.
- Snails and slugs – Snails and slugs love to eat the tender flesh of very young giant pumpkins. Put a ring of epsom salt or sand around your pumpkin – the pumpkin insect pests won’t cross it. Once your pumpkin’s skin has hardened, they won’t be able to puncture it and won’t be a problem anymore.
- Squash bugs – Squash bugs can destroy stems and leaves and require pumpkin insect control in in the form of Carbaryl, as an effective insecticide.
- Vine borers – Serious pumpkin insect problems can be caused by vine borers. These creatures burrow deep into pumpkin vines and suck away their moisture. If you find one, you may be able to save your vine by digging the bug out and burying the damaged part of the vine in the ground to encourage it to take root. This is a dangerous business, though, and not always successful. The best thing to do is take preventative measures by spraying the entire vine with a strong pesticide.
- Aphids – Aphids are pests on pumpkins that don’t necessarily do damage except in large numbers, when they can yellow leaves and produce a nasty, sticky substance called honeydew. Even in small numbers, however, they can spread diseases among pumpkin plants. Light insecticides should kill off an aphid infestation, but they can also be combatted by a strong spray of water, the introduction of natural predators like ladybugs, and the installation of reflective mulch.
Trying to get rid of the dreaded squash bugs from your garden can seem like a daunting task. Especially once they have arrived in full force!
Squash bugs, which are often confused as stink bugs, are a devastating garden pest that can lay waste to otherwise healthy crops.
And they attack much more than just squash.
In addition to attacking squash plants, squash bugs also devour cucumbers, pumpkins and even perennial plants like this rhubarb plant.
Squash bugs are more than happy to dine on cucumber plants, zucchini, pumpkins, watermelon, cantaloupe and muskmelon too.
In fact, any member of the cucurbit family is at risk from an attack. And the attacks are simply devastating!
Squash Bug Damage
Squash bugs have super-sharp mouths that literally suck the sap from healthy plants.
As they bite into the vines and foliage of plants, they release a toxin that is deadly to the plant.
Small plants can be decimated in just a day or two. Large plants may be able to keep a portion of their foliage alive, but are left heavily damaged.
After an attack, the plant will begin to have a few yellow spots appear on it’s leaves. Within a day or two, the leaves begin to wilt and rot away.
And as the toxin continues to spread throughout the plant, more and more foliage begins to wilt.
The best way to get rid of squash bug eggs is to simply remove by hand.
Eventually, what once was a thriving plant just a few days before, becomes nothing more than a mass of dead foliage.
But there are effective ways to get rid of squash bugs from your garden. And of course, save your plants at the same time.
It really comes down to being aware and on the lookout for early signs, and acting quickly to contain it.
How To Get Rid Of Squash Bugs
Be On The Lookout!
The first line of defense is to be proactive. It is vital to keep an eye out in the garden and look for early signs of squash bug activity.
Adult squash bugs look very much like the common stink bug, but have an orange-like stripe across both their abdomen, and on the sides of their shell-like body.
Adults overwinter either in the garden soil, or in nearby wood piles or brush. When they emerge, they head to the plants to mate.
Squash bugs lay their eggs on the undersides of plants. And these eggs can take up to 10 days to hatch.
It is during this time that you need to be diligent in finding and removing both the adults and the eggs.
The best way to get rid of squash bugs and their eggs at this stage is simply by hand picking.
If you can remove them before they arrive, the damage can be controlled quite well. If not, a newly hatched set of squash bugs can lay waste to a plant and garden quickly.
One of the most effective ways to control squash bugs is by employing the power of companion planting. See : Companion Planting 101 – Why What You Plant Where Matters.
Companion planting is a great way to help get rid of squash bugs and their damage. The plants act as a deterrent and help keep them away from the plants they love.
Nasturtiums, radish, dill and marigolds are all known to repel squash bugs quite effectively.
By planting these crops nearby the plants affected by squash bugs, you can help keep them at bay.
Using Row Covers To Get Rid Of Squash Bugs
Another effective way to control squash bug damage is through the use of floating row covers. Especially when plants are young.
Squash bugs will mate early, and if young crops are covered, they are unable to lay their eggs on the plants.
Place floating row covers on soon after planting, removing only when the first flowers begin to appear. This will allow for proper pollination of crops, but give enough time for the squash bug mating period to pass.
As with any garden pest, crop rotation is a vital and important strategy to keep squash bugs at bay.
By moving crops to a new location from year to year, the eggs, larva and adults are unable to “set up shop” and infest one set area.
Moving crops to a new location in the garden each season will help tremendously in the battle against all insects!
Here is to getting rid of squash bugs in your garden!
This Is My Garden
This Is My Garden is a garden website created by gardeners, publishing two articles every week, 52 weeks a year. This article may contain affiliate links.
Can you picture a proper end-of-autumn celebration without squash and pumpkins? Whether your jam is a full-blown Halloween bash or a pumpkin-pie feast for the entire family, squash, pumpkins and gourds can make or break your October – which means that letting squash bugs take a foothold inside your property can literally wilt your season.
Squash bugs are a highly-seasonal but very widespread pest, and they can quickly suck the life out of your plants. Learn how to get rid of them, how to recognize them, and how to prevent their appearance altogether.
Quick Facts about Squash Bugs
|Origin||Central America and the Southern United States – from Arizona to Honduras|
|Common Names||Squash bugs|
|Scientific Names||Anasa tristis|
|Identification||Adult squash bugs are approximately half an inch long and a third of an inch wide (1.5 cm x 0.75 cm). They are mostly grey with brown spots along the abdomen. Eggs, on the other hand, are oval and about 1/8 inch long, and are often hidden in clusters of 10 to 40 eggs at a time.|
|Plants Affected||Almost all members of the Cucurbitaceae family, including most varieties of squash and pumpkin.|
|Remedies||Manual picking, installing barriers, predatory bugs, predatory backyard animals, Neem oil, traps|
Where Do Squash Bugs Come From?
Squash bugs are believed to have crawled their way north from Central America, where most squash varieties also come from. As their favorite food has spread out across most warm and temperate parts of continental North America, squash bugs have found an opportunity to expand their home. Whether hidden in cuttings or unknowingly carried off by other animals, squash bug infestations have been confirmed as far north as Alberta and Nova Scotia to the north, and in almost every American state with the exception of Washington, Oregon, and Hawaii.
Traditionally, they are only considered a year-round problem in Mexico and the Southern United States. However, increased land trade and climate change have been progressively expanding their comfort zone over the last few decades.
Anasa Tritis on a squash – Credit: lonqueta
At first glance, squash bugs are quite similar to both stink bugs and squash vine borers, as they are also grey and winged. They can grow up to half an inch long, which is just large enough to sport them at plain sight. However, in order to get a good look at the brown, orange or yellow stripes on their underside, you may need to get a closer look.
Just like stink bugs, squash bugs will emit a strong and unpleasant odor when crushed.
While adult squash bugs are easy to spot, they can be notoriously easier to miss when in their nymph stage. These are much smaller and usually lighter in colors, ranging from a greyish white to a very light green. They also lack wings, and are often mistaken for tiny spiders.
Anasa Tritis Eggs – Credit: Pollinator
Squash bug eggs are tiny, oval, and remarkably orderly. Females usually lay them underneath stems or hidden on the underside of leaves, in clusters of up to 40 eggs at once. They usually appear very neatly aligned, in three or four consecutive lines.
Types of Squash Bug
There are no subspecies or subtypes of Anasa tristis or squash bugs.
Although there are some types of bugs that can be easily confused with them, or who have similar names, they all belong to distinct families and will require their own distinct strategies to fight them (Source).
Squash vine borers are borers, not true bugs, and while fond of the same plants, they will eat their leaves directly rather than seek the sap.
Squash Vine Borer (Melittia cucurbitae) – Credit: jcapaldi
Stink bugs are physically similar, and they also smell alike when manually killed. However, they have the ability to secrete the same smell when feeling attacked. They also tend to favor nightshades (tomatoes and peppers) and legumes rather than gourds (University of California Integrated Pest Management Program).
Brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys)
Squash bugs are seasonal, thanks to their little-known ability to fly off or hide under a rock during the winter.
Their life cycle usually takes about five to eight weeks. After waking up, usually around early June, squash bugs start laying their eggs, which will then take about ten days to hatch.
Afterwards, nymphs (or baby, wingless squash bugs) will take between four to six weeks before becoming full grown adults and being ready to begin reproducing themselves. As soon as they do, they will begin laying eggs continuously, until it’s time to disappear again for the winter.
As temperatures drop and approach the freezing point, adult squash bugs will either hide under mulch or debris, under rocks, or even fly off South to escape the cold – while those who have not made it out of nymph stage by the first frost will usually die.
This means that, depending on the length of the summer, each year may bring about up to two full generations of bugs. (Source)
What Do They Eat?
Squash bugs have proven fond of nearly all members of the Cucurbitaceae family, also known as the gourd or squash family. This includes proper squash as well as pumpkins, zucchinis, and cucumbers (University of Florida).
That being said, they are not likely to feed off the squash itself. Instead, they use their piercing mouths to draw holes in the stems and leaves, perforating the epidermis, in order to suck the plant’s sap. By doing so, they are reaching directly into the plant’s version of its bloodstream – think of a plant mosquito, minus the buzzing and the dengue.
Symptoms of Squash Bug Infestation
Some entomologists believe that squash bugs inject some sort of toxin into the plant while feeding, in the same way as mosquitoes drop a bit of saliva that causes their dreaded itchy bumps (Penn State).
However, they are still not 100% sure of this, and in any case, no toxin is needed to ruin the plant: just by eating off its nutrients, they can basically starve it out. The squash plant will then become stunted, unable to grow its fruit, or even die out.
The little holes they drill into the plant cause their own damage, as well. The best way to recognize the damage done by squash bugs is to look for the yellow or light brown spots they leave around the vines or on the underside of leaves. These are usually caused by the holes they drilled into the plant while feeding.
As they have broken through the plant’s epidermis, these holes can later become weak spots from which viruses or fungi can enter the plant’s sap stream.
Unlike cucumber beetles, squash bugs don’t carry any disease or virus by themselves, but they do provide an entrance for opportunistic infections. In addition, if damage to a certain leaf or vine has been extensive, the entire branch may also turn black and die. This is often confused for an infection known as bacterial wilt.
Squash Bugs Pest Control
Squash bugs are terribly hardy, but they are not impossible to fight. However, just like most other pests, they are significantly easier and cheaper to prevent than to kill off – especially if you are committed to avoiding chemical pesticides and want to keep your home garden completely kid-friendly.
The top prevention strategies that you can use include:
Good old-fashion physical barriers: a tent or a floating barrier can prevent adult squash bugs from flying into your plant
Sanitation for all new plants: Inspect each new cutting that comes to your garden, and set up a period of quarantine for any gifted seedlings.
Plant some catnip: Despite being quite malodorous themselves, squash bugs are not too fond of catnip. Keep a couple of catnip bushes around your pumpkin patch to keep squash bugs away. If you’d rather keep the town’s cats away, try spearmint or dill instead.
Spring cleaning: One of the reasons why squash bugs are so pervasive is that they can hide every winter. Make sure to move any stones and get rid of all mulch before the summer kicks in and they have the chance to repopulate your yard.
Crop rotation: If possible, try switching around the placement of pumpkin or squash patches from year to year. Just make sure to leave last year’s mulch and leaves behind!
These methods are a bit more labor intensive than spraying, but they are also safer for your family, pets, and ecosystem:
Hand picking. If prevention measures fail and you spot one lone squash bug creeping around your vines, don’t delay: visually inspect all your plants and manually pick off all the eggs.
Traps. This strategy works best during early to mid-spring, when squash bugs are more likely to seek overnight shelter:
1. Place a few wooden boards or planks around your squash or pumpkin plants
2. Wait until late at night (or before the crack of dawn)
3. Turn over the planks and immediately crush all the bugs that have hidden beneath them
Set a hen on them. Sometimes, you want some full-time mobile help that can chase around full-grown bugs all the time. Guinea hens are chicken are both fond of these bugs.
In addition, the Green and Vibrant Philosophy always includes some natural allies:
Ladybugs. These are a great way to fight off a variety of potentially invasive pests. They are also easy to attract (or to buy), non-toxic, and quite nice to look at.
Praying mantises. Much more voracious than ladybugs, they can make for a much more aggressive army against squash bugs – and will also hunt cucumber beetles and squash vine borers. Unfortunately, they’re not exactly team players: if you already have some praying mantises hanging around your garden, it’s best to avoid buying ant ladybugs.
Tachynid flies. Also known as Trichopoda pennipes by the nerds among us, these flies are a great way to target squash bugs directly. They are fond of using squash bugs to lay their eggs on, and once their larvae hatch, they will literally feed off their backs. Keep them extra happy by placing a few dill plants in the area
Chemical Methods and Home Insecticides
Squash bugs are quite good at hiding behind leaves and twigs, which makes most sprayed insecticides ineffective when dealing with the fully-grown bugs. However, there are other methods available:
Washing leaves. This can be done with a homemade insecticide soap. However, while very effective against nymphs and eggs, it will do little to adult squash bugs. Nevertheless, a quick wash can be very useful if done alongside a through visual inspection. If you find any adult bugs during it, you can pick them off manually. For best results, this should be done every three days, for two weeks, after initially sighting the bugs or their damage
Sabadilla or sapodilla. Sabadilla (Schoenocaulon officinale) is a tall grass native to most of Central and South America. Its crushed seeds have proven remarkably innocuous for humans and mammals, but toxic for many bugs – including squash bugs, stink bugs, and chinch bugs. It works on contact with the bugs’ exoskeleton (in a similar way that borax does with ants), and it will also poison them if ingested (Journal of Economic Entomology)
Neem oil. Neem oil is a great all-in-one solution, as long as there are no pets in your home or around your greenhouse – it can be quite toxic to dogs. In addition to fighting squash bugs and cucumber beetles, it will also keep most types of mites and borers away from your plants. Ladybugs, however, are not too fond of it either (Source)
Squash bugs are resilient enough that they have proven to be an economic liability, as they can quickly destroy a very valuable crop if left to thrive. For those of us who tend to our gardens and greenhouse as a hobby, they can prove even harder to deal with. After all, the goal is to keep our gardens pleasant and relaxing, rather than see them turn into an extra source of stress.
Fighting squash bugs requires patience and thoroughness, but when the time comes to share a truly homemade pumpkin pie, it will prove to be well worth the effort.
Photo Credit: 1st image – ALAN SCHMIERER