|I have had squash bugs for years and every year they are worse than the last. What can I do to prevent them from ruining my squash plants?|
|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. The first step in controlling them is to inspect plants daily, squashing any of the bugs and their eggs you see. Their amber-colored eggs are laid in clusters underneath the leaves, usually in the protected area between two leaf veins. If you are squeemish about squashing them, carry a can of kerosene or alchohol and drop them into that.
If you set boards under the plants near the stems, you will find that squash bugs like to congregate beneath them during the day. Check the boards daily, and dispose of any of the pests you find. A piece of aluminum foil laid around the stem like a mulch will also create attractive hiding places for them.
At the end of the growing season, clean up all plant debris, including mulch, to remove overwintering insects. Next spring, cover young plants and newly seeded beds with fabric row cover, securing the edges well with soil or with a 2x4. The fabric will also keep out cucumber beetles and adult squash vine borers. 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.