How to Get Rid of Squash Bugs: 6 Easy Ways to “Squash” Them Naturally
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“How to get rid of squash bugs” is the biggest gardening question we get during the springtime!
Those nasty little things perplex sooooo many people!
One day your squash is looking great!!
The next, completely dead!
I know it keeps you up at night worrying about if your plants are going to make it to the next day!
It’s like Russian Roulette in the gardening world!
Here’s how you can avoid heartache and have better squash plants this season!
Squash Vine Borer: What am I looking for exactly??
The squash vine borer is actually a flying insect!
And quite large. You can actually see them flying near you.
The flying insect will lay its eggs on the leaves of the squash plant. As the eggs hatch, the insect is in a pupa stage, looking more like a grub. Within 1-2 weeks, the pupa will bore into the stem of the plant and eat away the insides. They will devour the plant for about 2-4 weeks (1) and, if not caught early, your plant will look like it has died overnight.
The stem of your squash plant will look mangled, chewed, and really weak. Once this occurs, there is no saving the plant.
Do Squash Bugs Die Overwinter?
They make a home in the soil until it’s the nice warm days of spring and summer where they will emerge to feast on all your beautiful plants.
Because of this, you’ll want to make sure you get rid of all your dead plants at the end of the season AND you want to make sure you’re practicing crop rotation (don’t put them in the same spot next year) so that if they’re already in the soil, you’re not just giving them food to eat after the winter (2).
6 Ways to Get Rid of Squash Bugs Naturally
Early detection is KEY! You must check your plants frequently throughout the day! This is not a plant that you can plant and forget until you get all the lovely vegetables from it!
It is imperative to frequently tend to it.
- Make sure your soil is healthy! Healthy soil = healthy plant. Healthy plants are able to fight insects and diseases better than unhealthy ones. Add about 2 inches of compost to your plants.
- Farmer Pete’s method of early detection…sword fighting! When you’re out in the garden, carry a large stick, like an old piece of PVC pipe…whatever you may have on hand, and WACK the flying bugs. They are large enough to see so it’s pretty easy to practice your swordplay!
- Exam the plants a couple of times a day for the eggs. They tend to hide underneath the leaves. Pick the eggs off by hand and squish as soon as possible. If you don’t feel like having bug egg guts on your fingers, you can add them to a cup of water with some dish soap.
- Since they overwinter in the soil, you can add a little bit of diatomaceous earth around the stem as you transplant the first plantings of the season. You can add a bit of diatomaceous earth, like this one, around the stem once a week while the plant is growing. DE dries out insects so be frugal with it because if it’s doing that to your bad insects, guess what it’s doing to the good ones.
- You can use insect netting. It helps with keeping the flying insects from laying seed directly on the plant.
- Surgically remove it. Yep! You’re becoming a plant doctor! If you suspect your plant may have a squash vine borer, you can surgically remove the pupa. Check out this video from Farmer (Doctor) Pete.
It can be so sad to see these large, beautiful plants be completely “eaten alive” and can be hard to let them go but sometimes they’re just too far gone. It’s best to pull out the plant and throw it in the compost or trash and start over.
Just keep planting!