The Q&A Archives: Foiling Squash Bugs

Question: We have squash bugs and have never had them after ten years of gardening until this year. They killed my one pet Atlantic Giant pumkin and are making their way to all of the rest of the squash family. Any ideas would be heplful.

Answer: How disappointing! Well, here's some info on their biology and control that should turn the tables next year. These dark brown, flat-backed insects fly into gardens in late spring, and immediately begin to suck the juices out of squash leaves, causing the leaves to wilt and turn black. Females lay yellowish-gold eggs on the undersides of squash leaves; within a few hours the eggs darken to brown. The nymphs hatch in 5 to 14 days, and, like the adults, begin to feed on the leaves.

To foil these nasties, first clean all plant debris, including mulch, from the plot at season's end. If you compost it, use the compost on beds far from the vegetable garden. Next spring, cover young plants/newly seeded beds with fabric row cover, and secure the edges well with soil or with a 2x4. I use wire hoops to keep the fabric off the plants. The fabric will also keep out cucumber beetles and adult squash vine borers. Temperatures under the fabric are a little higher than outside, creating a better growing temp for the vines. As soon as the plants start to blossom, you either need to remove the fabric so insects can pollinate the flowers, or you can pollinate them by hand. At any rate, your vines will have gotten off to a strong start, and even if squash bugs do attack, they'll have less impact on the larger plants. Best of luck next year!

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