|My squash plants have been eaten for the inside by small black beetles.
What are they and how can I stop this from happening?
Thank you, Janice Nowak
|I apologize for the delay in responding. We were flooded with questions and are working to catch up!
Squash bugs are the usual culprit. Does this sound like your pest? They are about 1/2" long, brown or grey, and shaped a bit like a shield. They suck the juices out of leaves and stems. They feed in groups. To control them, find their masses of yellow to reddish-brown eggs on the underside of leaves and squash them. 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 or similar around plants, then go out early in the morning to kill any bugs hiding underneath. 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. Rotate crops every planting season and clean up plant debris, where the bugs can overwinter.
Another typical pest is the squash vine borer. Adult moths lay eggs on stems near the plant base. After the eggs hatch, white caterpillars with brown heads tunnel into the stems to eat. They cause vines to wilt, even though they are well-watered, and eventually the plant will die. Look for entry holes and sawdust-like droppings at the base of the plants. Slit the stem lengthwise from the hole toward the tip of the vine and remove the caterpillar. Cover the stem with soil and it will reroot. To prevent them, in early summer, cover the plants with a floating row cover until flowers appear, which helps stop the moths from laying eggs.