The Q&A Archives: Squash Root Rot and Bugs

Question: Every year my zucchini/squash start out great, then I notice some grayish bugs all over them as well as at the base of the plant where the root has rotted away and the plant just falls right off the stem. What can I do about this?

Answer: I can't make a positive identification of the bugs without seeing them but their presence and the damage you're finding sounds suspiciously like the work of squash vine borers. 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 so try planting those this year.

Best wishes with your garden!

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