The Q&A Archives: Rotting Squash

Question: My zucchini and squash grew in beautifully. I have had a lot of blossoms and quite a few squash, however, I have only picked two zucchini. I noticed at the stem near the soil, there is yellow, grainy stuff seeping out. I figured it was rotting, so I pulled it off. I noticed inside the piece I pulled out there was a white worm. What did I do wrong? Did I over water, do I have an infestation, or do I just have bad, rotting plants( now all zucchini and squash plants are infected, but still blooming)? Is there anything I can do now to cure this problem?

Answer: Sounds like your plants have 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.

It is really important to clean up, remove and destroy all of the vines and plant debris each fall to help prevent an infestation next year.

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