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Bugs Etc.        < Previous

Squashing a Squash Bug Invasion


Bucket of water | spray bottle of water

Ivory or Dawn dishwashing detergent

Masking tape


Gardeners who love to grow big, beautiful pumpkins and tasty veggies like pumpkins, zucchini, summer squash and cucumbers often get sad when their gardens are attacked by squash bugs. Leaves that were big, perky and green can appear to go dry and brown almost overnight.


As you can see in the picture, squash bugs are kind of ugly, brownish-grayish, shield-shaped bugs. Their mouths are like can openers, and they love to pierce the fat, juicy stems of vines and suck up the nectar, or plant juice. Then they lay about a zillion eggs each, and very soon, your whole garden gets infested. A large zucchini or pumpkin plant can literally die because of these pests, and you should throw it away so that your other plants don't get infested, too.


But there are some ways to fight back that won't hurt the environment and might really push back against the squash bug invaders. Here's what to do:


1.      Starting in mid-June and continuing through the vine-crop growing season, every day or every other day, when you water the roots of a vine crop, leave the hose dripping at the roots, and keep an eye out for squash bugs. They will get flooded out by the water and will crawl up to the top of the leaves where you can see them. Nyahh ahh ahhhh!


2.      If you aren't squeamish, just squash the squash bug to kill it. Some people think it emits a bad smell, but many people can't smell it or don't think it's too bad.


3.      If you ARE squeamish, then take a bucket, pour three or four squirts of Ivory or Dawn dishwashing detergent in it, and fill about half-full with water. Then hand-pick the squash bug and throw it in there. Its body is soft and can't help absorbing the soap, which will kill it in a few seconds. But notice that Ivory and Dawn are biodegradable products, meaning they will mix into the soil without poisonous effect as other soaps will do. They also do not contain phosphates, which is a good thing for the environment.


4.      If you are super-squeamish and don't even want to touch the squash bug, you can put three or four squirts of those soaps into a squirt water bottle and fill with water. Then spray the squash bug several times. It should pass away soon.



Clusters of reddish squash bug eggs are deposited in a very orderly fashion

on the undersides of leaves.


5.      Last, but certainly not least, every day when you water your vine crops, take time to turn over some of the huge leaves and check to see if there are clusters of tiny, copper-colored eggs clinging in orderly patches to the undersides of the leaves. These are squash bug eggs! If you leave them, very soon you will have SCADS of squash bugs and will probably lose your plants. WAH! To keep that from happening, use an old-fashioned trick: roll up a piece of masking tape, and press it to the cluster of squash bug eggs. When you take the tape away, the eggs should stick to the masking tape. You may have to repeat a few times. When you have as many of them removed as you can, simply drop the masking tape into the bucket of soapy water, and that will kill the eggs. You can throw away the masking tape later. If a few eggs continue to stick to the leaf underside, you can hit them with your squirt bottle of soapy water, or just use your fingernail to remove them and squash them between your fingers.


Sticky masking tape picks up squash bug eggs easily.


There are other common-sense things to do to prevent a squash bug invasion:


§         Put a small board on the ground next to your pumpkin or zucchini plant. Every day, turn that board over. You are likely to find a squash bug or two hiding under there, making the hunt-and-kill process much easier.


§         Many gardeners say that planting marigolds and mint around your vining plants will deter squash bugs. Also consider putting down a thick layer of dry straw or other organic mulch around your vining plant right as you plant it. Some people swear by thick mulch as a way to prevent the squash bugs from "finding" the vine crops. Other people, however, say that the mulch gives them too many places to hide. You might want to try both ways and see what you think.


§         Don't plan vining crops in the same spot every year. This is called "crop rotation." If you had pumpkins on the south end of your garden this year, be sure to locate them on the north end next year. That way any squash bug eggs that hatch where there used to be a feast of pumpkins and squash last year will find only tomatoes and beets this year, which they don't like. So they'll starve. Yay!


§         It's also smart to "interplant," placing one vining plant in the midst of others that aren't vining, to kind of "hide" their favorite foods from the squash bugs. That makes more sense than planting a whole row or area of the same plant, that they love. It's like fast-food heaven! So mix it up and foil 'em.


§         Be sure to dispose of all your vines and leaves in the fall. Otherwise, squash bugs and their eggs are likely to hide in the debris. Then they'll come roaring back next spring. In the garden, as everywhere else, cleanliness is key!


By Susan Darst Williams • • Bugs, Etc. 05 • © 2012










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