The Q&A Archives: Squash

Question: Yellow squash and zuchinni are dying there is no visible damage to the leaves the only thing I have noticed is ants. What should I do?

Answer: What you describe could be a disease, or it could be that 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.

Ants typically don't bother squash plants other than to sip some of the fluid that's exuded from the stems and leaves and to tend any aphids that might be taking up residence in your plants.

Best wishes with your squash.

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