Bugs on zucchini plant

Garden Doctor: What are those little white bugs?

Question: Every time I brush against my summer annuals I am engulfed in a cloud of tiny, white insects. What are these insects?

Answer: Most likely they are whiteflies. Trialeurodes vaporariorum, also called the greenhouse whitefly, is a very common problem in greenhouses and gardens. Whiteflies breed year-round, and when one plant is harvested or dries up, the whiteflies simply move to another plant or weed. They have a wide range of host plants.

Nymphs and adult whiteflies are sucking insects. They cause yellowed, dry and stippled leaves. When the plant is disturbed a cloud of tiny flying insects emerge. Whiteflies leave behind a sticky substance on leaves called honeydew. This attracts ants and the ants interfere with the activities of natural, beneficial insect enemies. When the habitat for these beneficial predators is disrupted or the beneficials are destroyed by pesticides, this creates favorable conditions for whiteflies to lay their eggs.

Using pesticides is not recommended as the whiteflies build up resistance to the pesticide. Pesticides also kill the natural predators of whiteflies. Instead, remove the infested leaves that contain the nonmobile larval and pupal stages. Since the honeydew attracts the ants which disrupt the activities of the enemies, controlling the ants along with the pest is also helpful.

Another option is to buy commercial sticky traps or make your own. Whiteflies are attracted to bright yellow. Paint wooden stakes yellow and coat them with a mixture of one-part petroleum jelly or mineral oil and one-part household detergent or use commercial adhesive. Place the stakes around the infected plants and then disturb the plant from time to time. The insects will be attracted to the yellow stakes and stick to them. Periodic cleaning and reapplication of the mixture is necessary.

Spraying with water or insecticidal soap can also help reduce infestation. Ensure to spray the underside of leaves, especially those that are low to the ground and less likely to be disturbed. Finally, a cold winter will also help to reduce the whitefly populations. As they breed throughout the year, these management practices may be needed each season to help promote the natural enemies’ habitat and manage the whitefly population.

An excellent source of information is the University of California Integrated Pest Management (IPM) website: http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7401.html

Question: I want to convert my lawn to an edible landscape myself. How should I tackle this project?

Answer: September is a good time to gather ideas to begin your planning. This month, UC Master Gardeners are providing workshops on lawn conversion, growing herbs, and fall vegetable planting. In addition, Central Park Gardens is providing tours each season to inform and inspire. The Central Park Garden’s Sensory Garden incorporates artichokes, asparagus, rhubarb, and strawberries, as well as a variety of herbs. Dwarf fruit trees are pruned to demonstrate how to maintain a compact “fruit shrub” form that works well in a small home garden. The Vegetable Garden area displays seasonal food production and do-it-yourself drip irrigation.

When you tour public gardens, make notes about plant placement. Consider size, time of year when dormant or blooming, and neighboring plants with similar needs. Assess your soil drainage and organic matter.

Start with a rough sketch of your existing area on graph paper to scale. Think about walking paths, hours of direct sunlight, and existing irrigation. This will help to establish planting areas that you can phase in over time. Areas immediately around the house should include plants that you eat regularly, such as greens and herbs. Perennial herbs such as rosemary can form the backbone of this area and give structure to smaller garden beds for annuals.

Consider plants that are variegated, deep red or purple for interest. Farther out from the house consider fruit trees that can be controlled with pruning or espalier and different varieties of berries and grapes. Vegetables that you harvest less frequently can be placed farthest from the house, such as potatoes, onions, and garlic. Work in plants that support pollinators and your gardening neighbors will also benefit!

— Send questions, addressed to the “Garden Doctor,” Email: , voice mail: 530-666-8737, or regular mail: UCCE Master Gardeners Yolo County, 70 Cottonwood St., Woodland, CA 95695. Include your contact information. Any questions not answered in the Garden Doctor column will be answered with a phone call or email to you.

Check out this month’s free opportunities to learn more about gardening!

Stephens Branch Library
315 E. 14th St., Davis

* Sunday, Sept. 16
2:15 p.m.: Fall: The Ideal Time to Get Planting
3:15 p.m.: Fall and Winter Vegetables

* Sunday Sept. 23
2 to 4 p.m.: Year Round Kitchen Gardening

Central Park Garden
Corner of Third and B streets, Davis

* Saturday, Sept: 22
9:30 to 10:30 a.m.: Fall Vegetable Planting
11 a.m. to noon: Getting Your Garden Ready for Pollinators

Woodland Community College
2300 E Gibson Road, Woodland, Building 400

* Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, Building 400
9 to 10 a.m.: Lawn Conversion

  • Wash them away: Use a strong stream of water to blast aphids from your plants. You can also knock them off with your fingers or a cotton swab. This is best for light infestations.
  • Dip in water: If the plant has delicate foliage that won’t tolerate spraying, you can dip the entire plant in water to dislodge the aphids. Turn the plant upside down and dip the foliage portion into a bucket of clean room-temperature water.
  • Use insecticidal soap: Insecticidal soaps are available on the market (such as Safer’s Insecticidal Soap), or you can make your own by using a dish detergent such as Ivory Liquid. Try to find a product free of perfumes and additives that might harm plants. Mix the soap in a weak concentration with water (starting with 1 teaspoon per gallon and increasing as necessary). Spray on plants, focusing on the undersides of the leaves.
  • Apply neem oil: Neem oil is derived from the neem tree and thus is entirely organic. Use according to label instructions. In addition to its insecticidal properties, neem is also a fungicide and has systemic benefits (meaning the plant absorbs it so it can control insects it doesn’t directly contact). According to the Environmental Protection Association, neem is safe for use on vegetables and food plants as well as ornamentals.
  • Use a homemade insect spray: This all-purpose insect spray was developed by the editors of Organic Gardening magazine and has been described in Rodale’s Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control. To make a batch, combine 1 garlic bulb, 1 small onion, and 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper in a food processor or blender and process into a paste. Mix into 1 quart of water and steep for 1 hour. Strain through a cheesecloth and add 1 tablespoon of liquid dish soap. Mix well. The mixture can be stored for up to one week in the refrigerator.
  • Apply rubbing alcohol: Though this method is a little time-consuming, aphids will be killed if you coat them with a swab dipped in rubbing alcohol.
  • Removed damaged plant part: You can cut away sections of the plant that are heavily infested and dispose of them outdoors.
  • Hang sticky traps: Sheets or strips of sticky paper hung around your plants will trap any insects that come to visit. Sticky traps are available at garden centers and from online retailers.
  • Use chemical spray: It is always best to avoid chemical solutions when you can, but if a severe infestation of a prized plant leaves you no option, treat the infestations with a spray that contains pyrethrins, imidacloprid, or pyrethroids. Of these, pyrethrin-based sprays are the safest, since they have low toxicity and don’t persist for very long.


Four aphid control options that are safe for your plants and family By Linda Hagen


How to Get Rid of Aphids

  1. Remove aphids by hand by spraying water or knocking them into a bucket of soapy water.
  2. Control with natural or organic sprays like a soap-and-water mixture, neem oil, or essential oils.
  3. Employ natural predators like ladybugs, green lacewings, and birds.
  4. Grow the right plants that attract predatory insects, plants that repel aphids, and plants that “trap” aphids.

Whatever size garden you have, you’ve probably dealt with aphids at some point in time. Also known as greenflies or plant lice, they are most commonly light green or black, but can also be white, brown, gray, or yellow. The tiny insects, less than ¼-inch long, are usually found on the backs of leaves, bases of stems, on flower buds and fruits, and sometimes roots, depending on the species.

There are many ways to control aphids without using dangerous chemicals in your garden. Aphids have several natural predators, including other insects, insect larvae, and birds; and they move rather slowly, making them easy to remove by hand or target with sprays. Aphids multiply quickly, so it may take a combination of methods as well as repeated efforts to completely control them. Be persistent and patient; it may take a little time to see results.

Here are a few methods for natural aphid control:



Spray aphids off of plants with a strong stream of water from a garden hose. This method is most effective early on in the season before an infestation has fully taken hold. It may not be a good choice for younger or more delicate plants, but it works well on plants where you can use higher water pressure.

Remove by hand:

Put on some garden gloves and knock them off of stems, leaves, flower buds, or wherever you see them, and into a bucket of soapy water to kill them. You can also cut or prune off the affected areas and drop them into the bucket.


Soap and water:

Make a homemade aphid spray by mixing a few tablespoons of a pure liquid soap (such as castile) in a small bucket of water. (Avoid using detergents or products with degreasers or moisturizers.) Apply with a spray bottle directly on aphids and the affected parts of the plant, making sure to soak the undersides of leaves where eggs and larvae like to hide. The soap dissolves the protective outer layer of aphids and other soft-bodied insects, eventually killing them. It doesn’t harm birds or hard-bodied beneficial insects like lacewings, ladybugs or pollinating bees. You can also purchase ready-to-use insecticidal soaps online or at a local nursery.

Neem oil:

The organic compounds in neem oil act as a repellent for aphids and other insects, including mealy bugs, cabbage worms, beetles, leafminers, ants and various types of caterpillars. However, it may repel beneficial insects, so use caution when and where they are present. Follow package instructions for diluting the oil in water or use a ready-to-use neem oil spray, and spray the affected areas. Neem oil is also good for controlling different types of fungus.

Essential oils:

Create your own spray mixture with essential oils. Use 4 to 5 drops of each: peppermint, clove, rosemary and thyme, and mix with water in a small spray bottle. Spray on affected plants to target adult aphids, as well as aphid larvae and eggs.


Pictured Left: Green lacewing larva. Photo by: Tomasz Klejdysz / .
Pictured Right: Lady beetle larva. Photo by: Geoffrey Budesa / .

Lady beetles:

Adult lady beetles (ladybugs) don’t eat nearly as many aphids as they do in their larval stage, which is why many people are disappointed with the lack of control they see after releasing purchased live ladybugs into their garden.

There needs to be a large enough aphid population to keep the ladybugs fed long enough to mate and lay eggs — because it’s the larvae that eat the most aphids. Ladybug larvae don’t look at all like the adults we’re so familiar with, so identification is important (see photo). Live ladybugs can be purchased online or at your local nursery.

Tips for better results:

  • Lightly mist plants before releasing to encourage them to stop for a drink as they are probably dehydrated.
  • Release them in cooler times of the day, early morning or evening.
  • Repeat applications are needed, as most will fly away within a few days.

Green lacewings:

As with ladybugs, green lacewing larvae do the work of controlling aphids. Green lacewing eggs can also be purchased online and sometimes at a local nursery.


Provide houses for bug-eating birds, like wrens and chickadees, to live in and they’ll repay you by helping keep the insect population under control. Grow small trees and shrubs where they can take cover and build their own nests.


Use plants to your advantage by planting varieties that attract beneficial insects (aphid predators) or those that naturally repel aphids. You can also plant some aphid favorites as trap plants to lure aphids away from plants you are trying to protect. Also, keep your garden clean of dead plant material that may be harboring aphid eggs over winter.

  • Attract beneficial insects: Clover, mint, dill, fennel, and yarrow
  • Natural aphid repellents: Catnip, garlic, chives, onion, and allium
  • Aphid trap plants: Zinnias, dahlias, cosmos, asters, mustard and nasturtium


Aphids feed on soft stems, branches, buds and fruit, preferring tender new growth over tougher established foliage. They pierce the stems and suck the nutrient-rich sap from the plant, leaving behind curled or yellowed leaves, deformed flowers, or damaged fruit. Most aphids feed on a wide variety of plants, although some species are specific to certain types of plants.

Aphids don’t like to dine alone, and can usually be found feeding in large groups. Depending on the level of infestation, they can cause serious injury to individual plants or even entire crops. Aphids produce multiple generations in one year and infestations can quickly get out of hand. Treating them early, before they have a chance to reproduce, can make a huge difference in gaining aphid control. Aphids frequently carry viruses and can spread them from one plant to another, often proving fatal to crops like citrus, potatoes and grains.

Aphids secrete a sticky substance called honeydew that attracts ants, so following a trail of ants into a plant can often lead to a discovery of an aphid infestation. Ants are known to protect aphids from natural predators and even herd them into tight colonies so they can harvest the honeydew easier. Honeydew also creates a favorable environment for sooty mold to grow and spread.

Most species of aphids overwinter as eggs and hatch in the spring; however, in warmer climates, they can be an almost year-round problem.


Root aphids. Photo by: Floki / .

The signs of damage from root aphids are similar, with curled or yellowed leaves and a failure to thrive. Root aphids cause infected plants to be susceptible to root rot, mildew, and other diseases, but many of the above-ground treatments aren’t effective. Root aphids are also common on indoor-grown plants and herbs.

Here are a few suggestions on dealing specifically with root aphids:

  • Natural predators: For outdoor plants, predators such as birds feed on aphid eggs, parasitic wasps also attack the eggs, and ladybugs eat aphids on top of the soil.
  • Beneficial nematodes: Introduce beneficial nematodes into the soil and they will protect against a number of soil-borne pests including root aphids, without harming beneficials like earthworms. Nematodes can be used on indoor or outdoor plants.
  • Neem oil: While it won’t kill the root aphids, it can help keep an infestation from spreading.
  • Avoid spreading infestations: Be especially careful when relocating or disposing infected plants to not drop soil. This can lead to spreading the infestation to other pots or nearby plants, or tracking soil on the soles of shoes to other locations.

Last updated: August 20, 2019

Getting Rid of Japanese Beetles
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Squash bugs can be found feeding in large numbers on summer squash, pumpkins, winter squash, and cucumbers. Here’s how to get rid of squash bugs naturally and tips for preventing outbreaks in your garden.

I gardened for 20 years without ever seeing a squash bug and had no idea how lucky I was. After we moved to our current homestead the trouble began.

It was in our second year gardening here that I went out to water our pie pumpkins one day and found they were covered in these tiny grey bugs with black legs.

At the time I didn’t know what they were, although to me they almost looked like a giant aphid I knew it couldn’t be.

It didn’t take long to figure out that we had been infested with squash bugs! Oh my, what damage they can cause to your garden and very quickly too.

I’ve tried many methods of controlling and getting rid of squash bugs over the years and finally came up with ways that really do work.

Are you ready to get these nasty squash killing bugs out of your garden?


What Are Squash Bugs?

Helmeted Squash Bug

Squash bugs drive gardeners crazy! These nasty bugs seem to come out of nowhere and can be difficult to kill.

One day your squash plants are looking lush and healthy, then suddenly they are wilting and dying.

Squash bugs as you may guess from their name are commonly found on squash plants but they also will eat pumpkins and cucumbers.

They are often mistaken for stink bugs because they are similar in size and color and both bugs give off a strong odor when squashed.

But if you look closely you’ll find that stink bugs are wider and more round in shape than squash bugs.

How To Identify Squash Bugs

Adult squash bugs are fairly large insects and easy to spot in your garden. The adults are 5/8 inch long (1.58 cm) in size and brownish to grey in color with a flat back.

On the sides and abdomen, they have small orange stripes.

Squash bugs are able to fly but most often you will find them just walking around on the plants. They like to hide on the underside of the leaves and on the stems close to the ground.

Young squash bugs are light grey in color with black legs and move much faster than the adult bugs. You will find them feeding in groups on the undersides of squash leaves.

Squash Bug Lifecycle


Adult squash bug

Squash bug adults overwinter in protected areas of your garden. In the late spring as the weather warms they begin to emerge. This is often in June in Canada and the Northern USA.


Squash bug eggs and nymphs

The adult squash bugs begin to feed on squash and cucumber plants, breed and lay their eggs over a 10 day period. The eggs are laid on the underside of the squash leaves, often in a diamond or V-shaped pattern.

They are easy to recognize as they are a coppery red color and and look like little metallic balls on the undersides of the leaves. The eggs take 1 to 2 weeks to hatch.


Squash bugs don’t go through a pupal stage, instead, the nymphs hatch from their eggs and grow through instar stages looking more like an adult squash bug with each stage.

When the nymph first hatch they can look very much like an overgrown aphid but are grey in color with black legs.

Squash Bug Plant Damage

Zucchini plant with squash bug damage

What damage do squash bugs do to your plants? Well, a lot!

Both the adults and the nymphs feed on squash plants by piercing the plant with their sharp proboscis (mouth) and injecting toxic saliva into the plant while they suck out the juice.

You will first notice the damage looking like small yellow spots on the leaves that later turn black.

As the feeding gets heavier the leaves will start to wilt eventually looking like a brown and black dead leaf hanging on the end of the stock. The vines will also start to turn black and dry out.

Squash bugs also spread the Cucurbit yellow vine decline (CYVD) which is similar to the bacterial wilt spread by cucumber beetles but kills plants much faster.

Squash plants infected with CYVD will wilt and turn yellow nearly overnight and often about 2 weeks before the fruit is ready to harvest.

Squash plant infested with squash bugs.

How To Get Rid Of Squash Bugs

Dealing with this pest can seem very overwhelming at first, you may be wondering how do you kill squash bugs? After all, there are many methods out there but squash bugs are hard to kill with chemical methods.

You probably don’t want to use toxic chemicals on your garden anyway right?

1. Removing Squash Bug Eggs

Controlling squash bugs in your garden starts early in the season. The best thing you can do to prevent an outbreak is to start going through your squash plants every few days looking for squash bug eggs.

Turn the leaves over to look for the eggs. Squash bug eggs are small, shiny, oval-shaped and copper colored.

If you see them squish them or scrape them off into a container of soapy water to dispose of.

2. Dish Soap Spray

After squash bugs hatch the easiest way to kill them naturally is to use dish soap. Out of all the ways to get rid of squash bugs this is my favourite!

It might surprise you but using simple dish soap is a great way to kill many bugs in your garden without using harmful chemicals.

To make your own dish soap squash bug spray take 2 tablespoons of dish soap and mix it with 1 gallon of water in a garden sprayer. Fill the sprayer up with water first before adding the soap.

You want it to mix in not foam up.

Go through your squash plants looking for the nymphs and adults, when you find them spray them well with the soapy water mixture. It kills them very quickly.

3. Duct Tape

Another simple way to get rid of squash bugs is to use duct tape. Cut a length of duct tape and fold it back so the sticky side is facing outwards in a loop around your hand.

Turn the squash plants leaves over and when you see squash bugs touch them with the tape. This is a very easy way to grab a lot of squash bugs off your plants quickly.

4. Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth is another natural way of controlling squash bugs it also works very well for cucumber beetles. If you are using this method sprinkle diatomaceous earth around the base of the squash plants.

It only works when it’s dry so remember to reapply after heavy rain.

If you haven’t used it before diatomaceous earth is simply a soft sedimentary rock created from fossilized sea algae called diatoms.

Bugs hate to crawl through this as it feels very sharp to them and will kill the bugs quickly too. Make not to put any on the flowers of your plants as it will harm bees and other insects too.

Just make sure to use food grade diatomaceous earth in your garden. There are versions sold for garden use but they often contain other chemicals and even insect attractants.

How To Prevent Squash Bugs

There are many things you can do to help prevent squash bug damage in your garden.

  • Clean your garden in the fall, remove old squash vines and anything squash bugs can use as a shelter for over-wintering.
  • Use companion planting to repel squash bugs. Plant tansy and nasturtiums around your squash plants.
  • Keep squash plants covered until they begin to flower. Squash bugs only produce one generation each year, if you can keep your plants covered in the spring and early summer it will keep them from finding your plants.
  • Delay planting until the early summer. If covering your squash plants isn’t an option then try delaying planting until early summer.
  • Whenever possible trellis your squash plants. This gives squash bugs fewer places to hide and makes them easier to find and get rid of on your plants.
  • Encourage natural predators like parasitic wasps and the machined fly.

Plants Resistant To Squash Bugs

Squash bugs will eat any type of squash but they have favorites. Crooknecks, yellow straight neck, hubbard, and pumpkins are more susceptible to squash bugs.

Try growing varieties of squash that is less attractive like:

  • Black Zucchini
  • Acorn Squash
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Butternut Squash
  • Tromboncino

Yes, You Can Beat Squash Bugs!

Squash bugs can be a real nightmare in your vegetable garden. But don’t give up growing your favourite squash!

Start checking early in the season for squash bug eggs and destroy them before they hatch. Attract beneficial insects to your garden. Use natural methods to kill the adults before they cause too much damage.

Prep Time 2 minutes Total Time 2 minutes Difficulty Easy


  • 2 Tbs. Dish soap
  • 1 gallon of water


  • Garden Sprayer


  1. Fill your container up with water until it’s almost full.
  2. Add 2 tbs. of dish soap to the sprayer.
  3. Then finish filling the container up with water.
  4. Give it a shake to make sure the soap is mixed in with the water.


Waiting until the sprayer is almost full before adding the dish soap keeps it from foaming up to much. You want the soap mixed in with the water not floating on top.

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Kim Mills is a homeschooling mom of 6 and lives on an urban homestead in Ontario, Canada. Blogging at Homestead Acres she enjoys sharing tips to help you save money, grow and preserve your own food.

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Problems Growing Zucchini: Issues When Growing Zucchini Plants

The zucchini plant is one of the most common vegetables grown in the home garden. One of the reasons is because it is relatively easy to grow. But just because it is easy to grow doesn’t mean that the zucchini is without its problems. Many people have problems growing zucchini. Let’s take a look at a few of these issues when growing zucchini plants and how to fix them.

Zucchini Pests and Insects

One of the most common zucchini problems is with insect pests. The zucchini plant basically looks like a buffet table to a great many insects. Some common zucchini pests include:

  • cutworms
  • cucumber beetles
  • squash bugs
  • vine borers
  • spider mites
  • aphids
  • whiteflies

Most zucchini pests can be controlled with regular applications of insecticidal soap or pesticides. Since these different pests can affect the zucchini plant at different times in the growing cycle, it’s best to start a pest control regimen as soon as the zucchini plant is in the ground to avoid these pest problems on growing zucchini.

Zucchini Diseases

A zucchini plant is also susceptible to a wide variety of diseases. These include:

  • powdery mildew
  • bacterial wilt
  • downy mildew
  • yellow mosaic virus
  • botrytis blight

Once the zucchini plant is infected with any of these disease problems, it’s nearly always fatal to the zucchini plant. The best way to fix disease problems on growing zucchini is to make sure that the zucchini plant doesn’t get them in the first place.

This can be done mostly through appropriate care of the zucchini plant. Making sure that the plant gets plenty of sun, the right about of water every week, avoiding top watering, and good air flow through proper spacing of plants will go a long way towards helping the plant fend off many of these diseases. Also, keeping common zucchini pests away from the plant will help curb the diseases that these insects often carry with them.

Additional Zucchini Problems Blossoms Falling Off Plant

Zucchini blossoms falling off plants is often an issue gardeners see. While many people think that their zucchini has a problem because the blossoms are mysteriously falling off the plant, this is actually not the case. This is very normal for zucchini plants and is part of its development process.

If the ends of your zucchini get soft before they are fully grown, this is caused by squash blossom end rot and is a symptom of a calcium deficiency.

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