The Q&A Archives: Squash Bug Damage

Question: Do squash bugs attack and damage (or kill) other members of the family Cucurbitaceae?

I have been successfully controlling squash bugs in the past on my squash vines, but unfortunately, I've had to resort to Malathion spray about every three weeks after other methods failed. There has been no other fully effective method of control I've tried so far, even those mentioned in this Q & A section, that is, without seeing the plants eventually wither and die.

I recently applied my first spray of the year to deal with the annual barrage of squash bugs. This was effective, and I see no bugs on the squash. However, a close,casual inspection of my watermelon and muskmelon plants revealed some of the devils lurking near the bases and stems of the plants. Can they damage these plants as well, or are the bugs merely seeking refuge from my sprayed squash plants or the hot sun? I hate to spray any other plants in my garden due to obvious reasons (I've noticed a recent, prolific hatch of small praying mantises), since the only plants I spray now are the squash, but if they are causing damage to the other plants I'd like to know soon.

I've had large, healthy watermelon plants wilt and die suddenly in the past with no apparent reason, but it never occured to me to check for signs of the squash bug.

Answer: Yes, squash bugs will damage other cucurbits. These bugs like to hide in leaf litter or under boards, stones, etc. at night. Since they overwinter under garden debris, and there is only one generation per year, it is possible to reduce their population with diligence early in the season. You can place boards around plants, then go out early in the morning to kill any bugs hiding underneath. Also, search for and squish their shiny yellow to reddish eggs (on the undersides of the leaves), as well as any nymphs you find. Pull mulch away from the base of plants too, to eliminate hiding places.

Row covers can exclude the insects, if placed on plants early in the season. You'll need to hand-pollinate flowers, however. There are also some resistant varieties of summer and winter squash.

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