The Q&A Archives: Worms In Squash Plants

Question: Last year I had some great summer squash plants growing. They were producing a lot of squash. Then the leaves began to wilt and the plants eventually died. When I removed them form the garden, I found the stems filled with white caterpillars or worms. What are these pests and how do I keep them out next year?

Answer: Sounds like your garden has been invaded by squash vine borers. These are usually more of a problem with winter squash, but they can be a pest of all squash plants. They look like white caterpillars and they tunnel into stems, leaving yellow, sawdustlike droppings. Keep an eye out for the adult borer, an orange and black wasplike moth that lays eggs at the base of the stem in April or May. Begin checking your plants in late spring for very tiny red and orange eggs on the stems of plants. Rub out any you see. Later in the season carefully check the stems of your squash plant for the droppings. If leaves begin to wilt, or if you see the droppings, the stems have probably been invaded by the larvae. You can carefully slit the stem to remove the caterpillars and then bury the slit part in soil so it can take root. To avoid problems with your squash next season, be sure to plant them in a different area of the garden so overwintering adults or eggs won't have a chance to get to your crop.

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