The Q&A Archives: Organic Pest Control

Question: I need help with squash borers. They attack my squash every year, even though I rotate my crops. I've tried planting some herbs and I am trying to avoid pesticides completely if possible. I do plan to plant radish and garlic this year, but any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Sorry, but I don't share my veggies with bugs!

Answer: Just as squash is beginning to flower in your area, the adult moth lays eggs on the stems, usually within six inches of the ground. The eggs hatch and the larvae tunnel into the stems to feed for four weeks, which eventually causes the plants to wilt anddie. There are two generations of moth/larvae a year in the South and they overlap, which makes this a bigger problem throughout the summer. Prevent the moth from laying eggs by wrapping the stem with a barrier such as aluminum foil or covering the wholeplant with a floating row cover until blossom time. If you use row covers, keep the plants well watered. Squash plants tend to dry out quickly under them. If the larvae get inside the stems and you see the sawdustlike frass begin to ooze out, inject Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) into the stems with a garden syringe about 1/2 inch above the soil line every two weeks, starting after first flowering. If you miss some of the borers, slit the stem, remove the larvae and replant the slit stem. In fall, remove and destroy the squash plant debris where the larvae overwinter. Bt is an organic pesticide which is basically a disease you are giving the squash borers. It isn't harmful to you, birds, bees, pets, etc. It is widely available in garden centers and mail order gardening catalogs. It is often sold under the brand name Dipel or Thuricide. I don't blame you for not wanting to share...if you don't have a bumper crop of squash, how can you make that delicious squash casserole all summer?!

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