What is a squash bug?

How To: Get Rid of Squash Bugs

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If you pride yourself in growing your own pumpkin—or cucumbers, squash, and other gourds—then you might be familiar with this particular pesky garden nemesis. Tiny, flat, and brownish-gray in color, squash bugs take root on the underside of leaves or near the crown of the plant where they’ll lay clusters of oval-shaped, copper-brown eggs. Their appearance, half-inch size, even the unpleasant odor emitted when squished cause many homeowners mistake them for stink bugs—but these pests are their own evil entity. Squash bugs inject toxins into plants and suck moisture out of the leaves, causing them to wilt, blacken, dry up, and turn brittle.

If you spot squash bugs or their eggs on your gourds, act quickly to prevent a full-blown infestation. Mature bugs can be difficult to kill, but with a bit of diligence, homeowners can protect their prized pumpkins and savory squash from damage. Here’s how to get rid of squash bugs and keep them from harming your harvest in the future.

STEP 1: REMOVAL

If you discover squash bugs your garden, follow one of these three methods to get rid of them.

Scrape off the eggs. Remember: Squash bugs lay eggs in clusters on the undersides of leaves and at the crown of the plants, so be on the lookout. If you spot them, scrape them off using a butter knife and dispose of them in the trash can. Squash bug eggs hatch about every 10 days, so you need to check the plants weekly for new batches. Otherwise, you may instead discover a new generation of destructive troops in your garden.

Pick and flick adult bugs. If you find a handful of squash bugs on your plants, simply pick them off by gloved hand and flick them into a container of soapy water. The pests will get trapped and drown, ensuring that your harvest will remain undamaged throughout the season. Repeat this process every few days until all squash bugs are eliminated.

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Set a nighttime trap. Squash bugs tend to gather on the underside of logs or wooden boards at night, so set some bait to catch them all at once. Place a shingle or a board in the garden during the evening, and check underneath it for squash bugs in the morning. If you’ve attracted any bugs, immediately place the board or shingle onto a hard surface and step on it, smashing the bugs underneath. You’ll need to do this daily until you don’t see any more squash bugs on your plants.

STEP 2: PREVENTION

After following the methods listed above for how to get rid of squash bugs, homeowners can take several precautions to prevent their return. Keep reading for three ways to deter squash bugs from your pumpkins, squash, and other gourds.

Lay row covers over plants. Keep the insects away from your plants by covering them with floating row cover material (available from a nursery) or a lightweight landscaping fabric (available at home improvement stores) in early spring. Secure the edges of the fabric with dirt, bricks, rocks, or other heavy objects. If you’re working with taller plants, lay the row covers over hoops (available from a grower’s supply or home improvement store) set three to five feet apart. The spun fibers of row covers let in water, air, and light, but inspects like squash bugs can’t penetrate the surface. Leave the covers on for about one month, and uncover the plants when they start to blossom.

Plant resistant varieties of squash. Some types of squash—like butternut, royal acorn, and early summer crookneck—tend to resist squash bugs. If your garden has a history of infestation, stick with these varieties of squash.

Make your garden inhospitable for overwintering. Squash bugs can overwinter in many areas of your landscape, like in squash vines and mulch. Prevent the pests from finding shelter by making your garden inhospitable to them. Clear all squash vines at the end of the season, either by burning them or disposing of them in garden bags picked up by your municipality. Also, avoid putting mulch or straw around the base of your plants.

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Well known and widely distributed in North America, the squash bug (Anasa tristis) is a potential problem on all vegetable crops in the cucurbit family. They are often found in large numbers and tend to congregate in clusters on leaves, vines and fruits. Injury is caused by both nymphs and adults sucking sap from the foliage and vines of squash, pumpkins, cucumbers and other closely related plants. As they feed, they inject a toxic substance that causes host plants to wilt. When feeding is severe the leaves become black and crisp and die back. This condition is often referred to as “anasa wilt” which closely resembles bacterial wilt, a true plant disease. Smaller plants may be killed, while larger plants often recover once feeding stops. Heavy infestations may prevent fruit from forming.

Identification

Adults (5/8 inch long) are dark brown or gray in color which keeps them well camouflaged around plants. Known as true bugs, they have a hard shell with a long shield-like shape, two pairs of wings, and sucking mouthparts that originate from the tips of their head. Spider-like nymphs (1/10 inch long) are voracious and feed together in clusters or groups. When young they are whitish green or gray in color with red heads, legs and antennae. As they mature, they become grayish-white with dark legs.

Note: Squash bugs give off an unpleasant odor in large numbers or when crushed.

Life Cycle

Adults overwinter and seek shelter under dead leaves, vines, rocks and other garden debris. As temperatures begin to warm in the spring (late May and early June), squash bugs emerge and fly into gardens where they feed and mate. Egg laying soon begins and continues until midsummer with females depositing small brown eggs usually on the undersides of leaves. Eggs hatch in one to two weeks and the young nymphs disperse quickly to feed. Nymphs pass through 5 instars requiring up to 6 weeks to develop into adults. There is typically one generation per year.

Note: Because of the long egg laying period, all stages of this garden pest occur throughout the summer.

How to Control

  1. Plant resistant varieties when available.
  2. If only a few plants are affected, handpick all stages from the undersides of leaves.
  3. Place boards or shingles on the ground near host plants. Used as a nighttime shelter, they make excellent traps for morning collecting.
  4. Floating row covers (Harvest-Guard®) are extremely effective when placed on seedlings and left in place until plants are old enough to tolerate damage.
  5. Diatomaceous earth contains no toxic poisons and works quickly on contact. Dust lightly and evenly over crops wherever pests are found.
  6. Make 2-3 applications of Neem Oil at 7-10 day intervals. This organic insecticide works in multiple ways resulting in broad spectrum management of most insects that harm your vegetable garden. Best of all, it’s non-toxic to honey bees and many other beneficial insects.
  7. If pest levels become intolerable, spot treat with a fast-acting organic insecticide. For best results, apply to the undersides of leaves and deep into the plant canopy where insects hide.
  8. Roto-till or dispose of infested crop remnants shortly after harvest to reduce overwintering adults.

Tip: Researchers at Iowa State University found that mulching with newspaper and hay, before putting tightly secured row covers over gardens, reduced both weeds and pest numbers.

Trying to control squash bugs can seem an insurmountable task when you find them in your vegetable garden. These bugs can do a huge amount of damage, particularly to young plants.

These 10 easy tips will keep your garden pest-free. Take charge and get rid of these destructive pests for good.

Last summer I had a huge zucchini and squash patch. It wasn’t long before I had a squash bug infestation. The bugs are easy to identify based on their distinctive eggs which the bugs lay on the leaves that they enjoy eating.

What are squash bugs?

The botanical name for squash bugs is Anasa tristis. This bug is very common in the USA and gets its common name from the fact that it is attracted to and lays its eggs on squash, as well as pumpkin plants. I’ve also seen the bugs on cucumber plants and other curcubits such as melons.

The adult squash bugs measure about 5/8 inch long and about 1/3 inch across. Their color varies from dark brown to dark gray. Their eggs are elliptical shaped and have a yellowish color to them. They are small – about 1/16 inch in size.

Normally these eggs are on the underside of the leaves but the ones on my plant were in plain sight on top!

Squash bugs suck the sap out of leaves of plants that they feast on. This causes yellow spots and will turn brown and can cause the plant to wilt. They do most of their damage on younger plants. (more mature plants seem to be able to withstand their feeding a bit better but can still be badly damaged by the pest.)

The key to the control of squash bugs is to interrupt their life cycle, since they have just one generation each year. The females live over the winter in plant debris and then come out in the spring to lay their reddish browns eggs on the leaves of cucumber, squash, melons and pumpkins.

Tips to Control Squash bugs

Attempts at preventing squash bugs seem to work best if treatment takes place when the plants are young and also when they are flowering. Early detection of squash bug nymphs is very important. One you have a big infestation of adults, they can be very difficult to kill.

Here are some ways to try and eliminate squash bugs infestations and some ideas for organic squash bug control:

Garden Cleanliness

The adult bugs are attracted by garden refuse. Remove vines, leaves and plant debris in the last fall and destroy it. This will ensure that their will not be areas in your garden that attract the bugs when it is time to plant your vegetable garden.

It is tempting to leave vines and debris until spring once the gardens stop producing, but doing this just gives bugs and disease a breeding ground. Time spent cleaning away vines and dead plants in fall will reward you with less problems next year.

Garden refuse can be recycled in a compost pile, but don’t have it too close to the areas where you will be planting your vegetables.

Don’t compost your dead plants in the fall. Those little pests have a tendency to overwinter and will cause trouble all over again the next growing season.

Practice crop rotation

Many garden problems occur when you plant the vegetables your garden in the same spot each year. Instead, rotate the crops often, so that the bugs and diseases don’t get a change to really take hold.

It is good to rotate your crops each year, replacing those varieties that are prone to infestation in a planting area where squash bug resistant varieties were grown the year before (or where other crops grew which are not affected by this pest.)

Mulch can harbor bugs

We all love mulch for its ability to control weeds and conserve moisture, but mulch can also attract squash bugs. Bare soil in vegetable gardens seems to work better for me than mulched soil.

Squash bugs love to hide under the mulch and use it as a protective cover. If you do want to use it in your vegetable garden, don’t lay the mulch right up to the base of the plant. (a good idea with mulching any plants.)

Squash bug resistant varieties

If possible search out plant varieties that are resistant to squash bugs. There are some squash types are seem to not be so easily infected by them. These varieties are good choices:

  • Butternut
  • Early Summer Crookneck
  • Improved Green Hubbard
  • Royal Acorn

If you can’t find resistant types in your store, be sure to inspect the undersides of the leaves often for eggs clusters and destroy the infested leaves.

Timing Matters

Planting squash a bit later in the season works if you have the time for this and your growing season is long enough. The majority of the bugs will have hatched and perished by then.

For this reason, a second planting often does better than the first!

Companion Plants that repel squash bugs

There are some plants and herbs which squash bugs seem to avoid, so planting them near squash and other curcubits is a good idea. These include:

  • Mint (in containers is best. Mint can be quite invasive.)
  • Chives
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Tansy
  • Radishes
  • Nasturtiums
  • Marigolds (calendula)
  • Bee balm
  • Dill

Attract beneficial insects

There are some insects are very beneficial to have on your side when you are fighting pests. One of these is the Tachinid Fly (Trichopoda pennipes.) The bug is also known as the caterpillar fly. This fly also helps to control Japanese beetles and grasshoppers and a few other pests.

This little bug can be very effective in helping to control squash bug populations. The female fly lays her eggs on the adult squash bugs. When the eggs hatch, they burrow into the squash bug to feed, eventually killing it.

To attract Tachinid Fly, plant dill, Queen Ann’s Lace, carrots, cilantro or calendula near your squash plants. They have pollen and flowers that will attract the fly.

Controlling Squash Bugs

Sometimes, even if you have practiced good garden cleanliness and planted wisely, you may wander out one day and find these bugs enjoying a meal of squash leaves. Instead of reaching for the insecticides, there are other things that you can do to prevent squash bugs from doing their damage.

Remove infestations immediately

Ignoring a squash bug infestation will just make it worse in the long run, since it will allow them to take over the plant. If you find infested leaves, remove them from the plant and destroy them.

Don’t forget to inspect cucumbers, melons and pumpkins. Squash bugs love them too!

Hand picking

Be vigilant with young plants. If you notice squash bugs on plants, hand picking of the bugs is very effective. Examine your plants often and crush the eggs when they are spotted. Be especially vigilant early in June, which is a common time for eggs to be laid.

To pick off the bugs, simply inspect the plants and pick off any adult bugs you may find and drop them into the soapy water. You will generally find the bugs on the underside of the leaves, or at the base of the plants.

Using wide packing tape with the sticky side out is also a great way to pick the bugs off the plants.

This can be a daily job and if you get decide to let it go for a few days, you may end up with a problem that is not so easy to control.

Insecticide for Squash bugs

With vigilance, insecticides are often not necessary but if you do develop an infestation that you cannot manually control, you may need to use them.

Neem oil for squash bugs is a natural pesticide which effectively controls this pest. Spray it on all leaf and stem surfaces as the label suggests.

Diatomaceous earth applications around the base of the plant can be an effective method to control squash bug and is a treatment that is also considered Organic.

This powder does not work as well on adult squash bugs because of their hard shell, but it does help get rid of the squash bug nymphs.

Be careful not to get diatomaceous earth on the blossoms of the plants, because it won’t be able to tell the difference between a squash bug and other, more beneficial, insects which are attracted to pollen of flowers.

With a bit of care in both planting and tending of your plants, you should find that you can control these pests for good this year.

For more information on other invasive pests, see this post.

Admin note: This post first appeared on my blog in June of 2013. I have updated the post with additional information and photos.

To remind yourself of this post later, pin this image to your gardening board on Pinterest.

What have you found effective in dealing with Squash bugs?

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small commission from the sale, but the price is the same for you. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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6 Ways to Get Rid of Squash Bugs in Your Garden- Naturally!

Are squash bugs destroying your garden? Here’s how to get rid of squash bugs naturally in your organic garden!

Squash bugs are one of the hardest pests to get rid of once they find your garden. It can be devastating to walk out to your garden and find your beautiful squash plants wilted on the ground. And all those dreams of a big squash crop this year are gone.

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Crop rotation is helpful, but only if you have a lot of room to rotate about. Chickens and guineas, at least mine, don’t really care for squash bugs either.

So how do you get rid of squash bugs naturally in your garden?

What is a Squash Bug?

First let’s talk about what a squash bug is. Basically, it’s a stink bug. They look identical to those things you’ve been calling stink bugs your entire life. They are shield bugs that are about 1 inch long with a hard shell and soft body underneath.

Squash bugs will attack almost all varieties of summer and winter squash, though they do prefer some types of squash and pumpkins over others.

The adult bugs will overwinter in the soil, hatching in the spring. They will mate and lay their eggs on the underside of the host plants leaves. When the nymphs hatch they can take down your squash vine in a matter of hours.

But fortunately all isn’t lost. If you combine the following 6 tips, you can effectively get rid of squash bugs and prevent them from taking over your garden this summer!

How to Find Squash Bugs on Your Plants

In the morning or evening, take a look at the base of your squash plants and on the underside of the leaves.

If it’s early in the growing season you will see adult squash bugs on the stems, leaves, and on the soil around the plants. It’s not uncommon to find 2 mating bugs since they will soon be laying eggs.

As the season progresses you will see more adults and neat rows of golden-brown eggs on the leaves of your plants. These are usually located on the underside of the leaves, though sometimes are laid on the tops or stems.

Finally, once the squash bug eggs have hatched you will see lots and lots of tiny, soft-bodied, gray squash bug nymphs. These nymphs are usually responsible for doing the most damage to your plants.

Get Rid of Squash Bugs in Your Garden- For Good!

1. Hand pick off the bugs and eggs

This is, and always will be, the best method of defense when it comes to getting rid of squash bugs. The most reliable way to get kill squash bugs is to do it yourself. I keep a jug of soapy water in the garden specifically for this purpose.

Bug picking is best done in the morning or evening- simply go through your plants and pick off any adult bugs to find and drop them into the soapy water.

Adult squash bugs are usually found on the underside of the leaves, especially the lower leaves that are touching the ground.They will also be found around the base of the plant.

You will find rows of gold-colored eggs on the undersides of the leaves. You will also want to scratch off and destroy these eggs.

Try to do this with the least amount of damage to the leaves. You can simply squish them, brush them off into your soapy water or use very sticky tape to pick them off. This is a daily job and if you get lazy about picking- chances are your squash plants will fall!

Alternatives to hand picking that can also work are spraying your plants with a water hose- some people have said using the hot water from the hose in the late afternoon can hurt the squash beetles.

You can use row covers in the early spring too, but since a lot of the beetles will overwinter in the soil, it may not catch too many. And in order to have squash you must open your rows to allow for pollination.

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2. Companion plant

You can also help control squash bugs by planting repellent plants with your squashes. Two of the most common plants that repel squash bugs are nasturtiums and white icicle radishes.

You can read more about companion planting with squash on my article The Best Squash Companion Plants.

Plant them throughout your squash beds for the best results. Other plants such as oregano, marigold, calendula and dill can also provide some protection and deter squash bugs in your garden.

Related: 16 Ways to Use Companion Planting to Control Plants Naturally

3. Attract beneficial insects

The problem with most insecticides- even those labeled “organic”- is that they don’t differentiate between the good and the bad. Certain insects are very beneficial to have on your side when you are fighting pests. One such insect is the Tachinid Fly, or Trichopoda pennipes.

This little fly is very effective in helping to control squash bug populations. The female fly lays her eggs on the adult squash bugs and they will hatch and burrow into the host to feed, killing it.

If you companion planted dill or calendula with your squash plants their pollen and nectar rich flowers will help to attract the Tachinid Fly.

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4. Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous Earth is a powder made from ground up diatoms. It works my making microscopic cuts in the exoskeleton of insects- drying them out. There are 2 types- food grade and industrial grade. You want the food grade for all of your gardening and pest needs. Simply spread a layer of diatomaceous earth at the base of the plant. It doesn’t work once it gets wet, so you will have to reapply as necessary.

DE does not work as well on adult squash bugs due to their hard shell, but it does help get rid of squash bug nymphs. These nymphs are usually the most destructive and they don’t have such a hard shell.

Take care not to get DE on the blossoms, because it will not differentiate between a squash bug and a bee, lady bug or Tachinid fly. So be careful when using it.

Related Reading: The Best Essential Oils for Gardening

5. Watch your mulch

Squash bugs love to hide under the mulch around your plants and it provides the insects with a protective cover.

If you must mulch, do not put it right up against the base of the plant, or try something like plastic sheet mulching instead.

Related Reading: How to Get Rid of These Garden Pests Naturally!

6. Over-plant your squash

The more plants you have the more there is to go around! The first year I planted yellow scalloped squash, I planted 3 along with my usual zucchini. What I discovered is that the squash bugs preferred the yellow scalloped squash over the green zucchini.

From that year on, I have planted a few sacrificial scalloped squash. I still use the above mentioned control measures, but the sacrificial squash plants are usually the first to be swarmed and fall.

This also works if you just plant more plants than you really need- that way it isn’t quite so devastating if the squash bugs win the battle. You can also try planting varieties, such as butternut squash, that are not favorites of the squash bugs.

This is another form of companion planting that includes using trap crops. Trap crops are sacrificial plants that are favored by a particular pest and are drawn to them instead. Then you can remove the infested plants or destroy the pests.

One particularly helpful trap crop for squash bugs is the blue Hubbard squash. Plant it around the perimeter of your garden- at least 4-5 feet away from your squash plants. Be sure to check these trap crops often for eggs and bugs and destroy them before they can move on to your cash crop.

Another thing to keep in mind when trying to get rid of squash bugs is to know your climate and insect life cycles. I know a lot of gardeners who can successfully plant squash later in the growing season and skip the squash bugs all together.

In my gardens, I have always found that it is better to plant early than late. That way I get a good month or 2 of squash harvests before the bugs get really bad. Experiment with planting times and see if a spring, early summer or late summer planting works better for you.

Good luck and Happy Gardening!

More Gardening Articles:

How to Control Cucumber Beetles Naturally!

How to Prevent Late Blight in your Tomato Garden

8 Ways to Improve Your Garden Soil for Free

How to Get Rid of Spider Mites Naturally

Controlling Squash Bugs – How To Get Rid Of Squash Bugs

Squash bugs are one of the most common pests affecting squash plants, but also attack other cucurbits, like pumpkins and cucumbers. Both adults and nymphs can literally suck the life right out of these plants, leaving them to wilt and eventually die if not controlled.

Squash Bug Identification & Damage

Squash bug identification is relatively easy to recognize. The adult bugs are approximately 5/8 inches long, have wings, and are brownish-black in color with some gray mottling. When crushed, they will give off an undeniable foul odor as well.

The nymphs are usually a white to greenish-gray color and have no wings, though they do have legs. On average it takes about four to six weeks for them to mature into adult squash bugs. You will find their eggs on the undersides of leaves up until about midsummer and both the adult and nymph bugs can be seen clustered together near the base of plants beneath foliage. They may also be found along the vines and unripe fruit.

Young plants are generally more susceptible to their damage, and if you don’t get rid of squash bugs, young plants will die. The larger plants are usually more tolerant, though squash bug control may still be necessary. Once plants have been attacked by these pests, their foliage may become spotted and begin turning brown. Wilting is also evident, after which both the vines and leaves turn black and crispy.

How to Kill Squash Bugs

When controlling squash bugs, early detection is important. In large numbers, they are more difficult to kill and will cause significant damage. Collecting and destroying the bugs and their eggs is the best method of control.

You can create a squash bug trap by laying out cardboard or newspaper around the plants. The bugs will then gather in groups beneath this during the night and can be easily collected in the morning, dropping them into a pail of soapy water.

Squash bugs tend to be tolerant of pesticides, so using pesticides may not reduce the population. Because of this, insecticides are not usually necessary for squash bug control unless large numbers are found. If this is the case, you can apply carbaryl (Sevin) per the instructions, with repeated applications as needed. Neem oil is also effective and a safer alternative to most other types of pesticides. The best time to apply any pesticide would be early morning or late evening. You’ll also want to make sure to cover the undersides of leaves thoroughly.

Want an easy, cheap way to get rid of squash bugs, their nymphs, & eggs? Organically control the leaf-footed beetle pests in your garden with this method!

Most of us who are growing a garden right now can commiserate with one another over the persistent problem of squash bugs (otherwise known as leaf-footed beetles or stink bugs) ravaging our summer squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, and winter squash! Well, today I’m going to show you how to kill squash bugs! This awesome garden hack is a total game-changer!

Until now, we’ve been doing one-on-one battle trying to kill squash bugs (adults).

And it’s not an easy battle to win!

For the gardener growing organically, rather naturally (not wanting to use even organic pesticides to upset the natural balance of the soil or inadvertently harm the beneficial insect population), this means lots of picking and squishing or drowning of the adults.

But the tables are about to turn, and our problem is about to grow exponentially because it is squash bug hatching season!

The few wily ones that have outwitted us have been laying their beautiful, jewel-like, golden or ruby squash bug eggs on the underside of the host plants leaves and they are getting ready to hatch. In fact, where yesterday there were none, today I found several batches had hatched.

What Is a Squash Bug?

When you type “squash bugs” into a google search, the top articles suggest ways to get rid of them. Though these pests are frustrating and serve as every gardener’s sole enemy, let’s learn a bit about them first. Maybe understanding them better will in turn help us understand how to get rid of squash bugs once and for all.

Squash bugs are no walk in the park to kill. Though they are normally found on their namesake plant, the squash, they can also be found on the squash’s cousin, the pumpkin. Though there is much misconception about the two, squash bugs are not the same as stink bugs. The similarities are in how they look and the stench that fills the air when they are killed.

If you are trying to make sure you have the right bug just by a glance, you can tell by paying close attention to the small unique features on their bodies. They are a pretty big bug at about half an inch long! Their bellies have orange lines, and their bodies are brown or gray. The younger ones have black or grey legs. You will typically find them strolling around plant leaves, though they do have the ability to fly. Squash bugs tend to move around in packs, strolling along the bottoms of leaves with their own kind at a fast pace. Since they move in packs, finding them is not as difficult.

The part you will really have to watch for with these bugs is the way they overwinter in hidden places. Some of these places include dead leaves, in vines, hidden in buildings, and even tucked away under boards. Once winter ends and vines begin forming, they are on their way (by way of flight) to your plants to start mating and laying eggs. These egg laying sessions come in troves and happen on the underside of leaves. Squash bugs, the sneaky little things, tend to live under leaves that have already been harmed, especially the adults.

So what are the exact ways these bugs cause damage?

For starters, they are toxic to plants. They inject their God-given toxins into your plant and then cause ultimate harm by sucking the sap out of the plant. And all of this is done with only their mouth! After the plant experiences this assault, you will begin to see yellow spots that ultimately turn brown on it. They essentially suck the life out of the plant and ruin the pathways for nutrients to reach the leaves. The end game looks like black, ragged, and brittle leaves. These terrible bugs can harm your premature squashes and kill your small plants quickly and with no regard for your hard work.

A good thing to keep in mind when dealing with any garden bug is the distinct similarities and differences all pests cause in their damage. This bug’s damage can easily be mixed up with the cucumber beetle, so make sure you keep an eye out for the ways in which the squash bug differs in its destruction!

How to Get Rid of Squash Bugs: How to Prevent a Squash Bug from Invading Your Garden

Prevention may be one of the most critical factors in learning how to get rid of squash bugs and all pests in general. As the saying goes, work smarter rather than harder.

Here are some things you can do:

  • In fall, burn (or compost) your old squash vines. The reason for this is to prevent squash bugs from housing themselves in these vines over the winter. The best way to avoid squatters is to take away their ability to squat in the first place, right?
  • Squash bugs enjoy straw and hay. These two things create a safe haven for these pests to get comfortable in, so stay away from creating cool mulches that go deep.
  • Did you know there are varieties of squash that squash bugs do not enjoy? Actually, squash types like butternut, sweet cheese, and toral acorn are resistant to these bugs. Get your hands on some of these types so you can stay away from the squash bug epidemic, yet still, enjoy the delicious goodness of squash!
  • Piggybacking off of our last prevention tip, another great idea is to try companion planting, which is an immediate squash bug repellent. Plants like tansy and nasturtium sitting around your squash may really keep these pests at bay. If you are looking for some plants that are more useful for your everyday rhythms but also keep squash bugs away, try some of these:

-Mint

-Onion

-Dill

-Radishes

-Chives

-Garlic

  • Another great way to get rid of squash bugs is to invest in a vine covering. This solution will keep your vines safely unavailable for squash bugs until they begin to bloom. And don’t fear, you can always remove the cover for pollination.

Next up, keep in mind that timing matters, and that there are ways to outsmart squash bugs. There is only one generation of these pests per year, and the best time to cover up the squash (see above tip) is at the beginning of spring. If you want to stay one step ahead of the buggers, wait to plant until the beginning of summer months.

  • A good way to make sure your squash plants don’t get ingested is by keeping a clean garden. All the extra stuff from the last season has to go. That means the plant leftovers: vines, leaves, and all the other things you will find in the wake of the previous harvest. Clean up after yourself if you don’t want these bugs to create a breeding ground out of your mess.
  • Another great preventative is crop rotation. Get one step ahead of these bugs by mixing it up each season. Do this by planting your veggies in different areas of your garden. It’s not a bad idea to begin making this rhythm a habit.
  • Avoid mulch! Bugs love to hide in mulch because they can live under it and stay protected. Mulch can be an excellent tool for weed control and keeping excess moisture out, but it is not worth it if it will also attract squash bugs. If you do want to use mulch, keep it away from the plant’s base.

Once squash bugs are full grown adults, they are not easy to kill or contain once you find an infestation. That means early detection is key!

How to Get Rid of Squash Bugs: How To Kill Squash Bugs, Squash Bug Eggs, and Nymphs

Kill Squash Bug Eggs & Nymphs

Last year, I picked the squash eggs off pumpkins with fingernails, getting the eggs stuck under them and often tearing the leaves in the process. My plan for this year was to be on the lookout for the soft-bodied nymphs and squish them as they hatched.

But this morning while chopping potatoes for frying to serve with some scrambled eggs, I listened to a podcast (now defunct) where the lady mentioned that her method of organic control is managing the eggs with a roll of duct tape!!

Brilliant!

I dropped my greasy spoon and ran for the barn, grabbed the duct tape, and headed to the garden where I experienced the genius of this idea for myself!

This morning alone I saved my plants from literally hundreds of these little monsters and myself from hours of picking! It was truly shocking- and I would never have found all of the nymphs on the ones on the pumpkins that were in with the corn…. Not in a million years.

I believe I may have stopped this cycle dead in its tracks with less than an hour’s work.

Tips for How to Get Rid of Squash Bug Eggs

• It is trickier to get the eggs when they have been laid in the corner of the large veins, so I got what I could and the few remaining I picked off with a fingernail.

• Be gentle. Some of the pumpkins had soft leaves, and a bit of the leaf came off with the eggs.

• If you see a squash beetle adult, capture her! I tapped the tape to her back, and she was stuck. I folded the tape piece around her, and she wasn’t going anywhere.

• Ditto for the cucumber beetles. If you happen to see one of them, tap it on their back. I think that’s the quickest way I’ve dealt with those guys so far.

How to Get Rid of Squash Bugs as Adults

Pesticide Spray

Until now, the most successful way that I have found to manage our infestation and learn how to get rid of squash bugs was to mist down the plants with a little peppermint oil diluted in a sprayer of water or using Rhubarb Leaf Pest Spray. I

t acts more as a temporary repellent, and you have to do it frequently to give your plants a fighting chance.

Another way to get rid of the adult squash bugs (and perhaps the cucumber beetles) on the spot is to use a biodegradable detergent dish soap. The soap works by suffocating the beetle within moments. It worked wonderfully for the squash bugs, But not so much for the cucumber beetles. That’s okay though, because I prefer to remove the beetle from the plant before spraying it. I want to make sure the plant isn’t affected in any way, and that the cucumber beetles will fly before allowing that to happen.

Duct Tape

The duct tape trick works well to get rid of squash bug adults too. When you tap them with the tape, they stick right to it! (Though I do pinch the tape around them to make sure they don’t fall off.)

Hand Held Vacuum Cleaner

An alternative to duct tape for nymphs and adults would be to get yourself a handheld vacuum cleaner. It’s a lot safer than squishing and works well for catching the ones that almost got away! A hand-held vacuum is also excellent for other garden pests like Cucumber Beetle, Asparagus Beetles, Mexican Bean Beetles, Colorado Potato Beetles, and more!

One final, long-term, goal would be to encourage your garden to become a diverse habitat. A place where predators like frogs and toads can become your greatest allies in the war against the pests!

With a little diligence in using these tricks to get a handle on how to get rid of squash bugs, my garden plants have a fighting chance! And I hope that yours will now too!

How is your squash beetle war going?

Squash bugs

Quick facts

The squash bug (Anasa tristis) is common throughout the United States. It mainly attacks squash and pumpkins but can also attack other plants in the cucurbit family, such as cucumbers.

  • Squash bugs suck the sap out of leaves and cause yellow spots that later turn brown.
  • It is most important to control squash bugs when the plants are young seedlings and when they are flowering.
  • They can cause young plants to wilt and die.
  • Squash bugs are not a problem if you see them feeding on plants in the fall.

How to identify squash bugs

Adult squash bug

Adult squash bugs are flattened, large insects. They measure 5/8 inch long and 1/3 inch wide. They are usually dark gray to dark brown. Their abdomens have alternating orangish and brown stripes.

The eggs are oval shaped, 1/16 in. long, and yellowish to bronze.

The nymphs hatching from the eggs range in size from 1/10 to ½ inch in length as they progress through five stages called instars.

At first, the young nymphs have a light green abdomen and black heads and legs. As the nymphs grow larger, they first turn light gray and then brownish gray, with black legs and antennae.

Life cycle of squash bugs

Squash bugs can live through the winter as adults in sheltered places, such as under plant debris, around buildings, or under rocks. When adults come out in the spring, they fly to growing cucurbit plants to feed and mate.

Female squash bugs lay small clusters of eggs (about 20) on the undersides of the leaves, especially between the veins where they form a V. Eggs may also be seen on stems. The females usually start appearing in gardens in early June and continue to lay eggs through mid-summer.

Squash bug eggs

Eggs hatch in about 10 days, and nymphs mature in about four to six weeks. Both adults and nymphs run for cover when disturbed.

One generation develops each year, although it is possible that in some summers there is a partial second generation.

The life stages overlap and all of them can be seen at any given time during the growing season. In the fall, especially after the vines have died, the adults and nymphs group together on squash fruits.

The nymphs die when the temperatures drop to freezing. The adults fly or crawl to sheltered places for the winter.

Newly emerged squash bugs Squash bug nymphs Mature squash bug nymph

Damage caused by squash bugs

Squash bugs suck the sap out of leaves with their piercing-sucking mouthparts. Their feeding causes yellow spots that eventually turn brown.

The feeding also affects the flow of water and nutrients, which can cause wilting.

Unlike cucumber beetles, squash bugs do not carry diseases.

Larger, sturdier plants are more tolerant of feeding damage, while young plants may die because of feeding.

How to protect your plants from squash bugs

Keep your plants healthy

Maintain healthy, sturdy plants through proper fertilization and watering to help limit squash bug damage.

Pick bugs off the plant early

  • Early detection of nymphs is important, as adult squash bugs are difficult to kill.

  • Remove and kill nymphs and adults by dropping them into a pail of soapy water. This is effective only if a few plants are affected.
  • Removal of squash bugs can be challenging because squash bugs hide under leaves and move quickly when disturbed.
  • Crush eggs that are attached to the undersides and stems of leaves.
  • Trap squash bugs by laying out boards or pieces of newspaper. Squash bugs will group under the boards at night, you can then collect and destroy them in the morning.
  • Remove plant debris during the growing season, to reduce sites where squash bugs can hide.
  • Clean up cucurbits and other plant matter in the fall to reduce the number of overwintering sites.

Using pesticides

  • Pesticides should only be applied, if plants are wilting early in the season (due to squash bug feeding).

  • The best time to apply pesticides is early morning or late at night (during minimum bee activity).
  • Be sure to spray underneath the leaves, where most squash bugs are found.
  • It is not necessary to treat squash bugs found in the garden during late summer or fall.
  • Active ingredients of commonly available pesticides are:
    • Carbaryl
    • Permethrin
    • Bifenthrin
    • Esfenvalerate

CAUTION: Mention of a pesticide or use of a pesticide label is for educational purposes only. Always follow the pesticide label directions attached to the pesticide container you are using. Remember, the label is the law.

Jeffrey Hahn, Extension entomologist and Suzanne Wold-Burkness, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences

Reviewed in 2018

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