How to Get Rid of Squash Bugs

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Squash bugs are enough to drive you crazy. You walk out and your garden is growing just fine one minute, and the next there is a crapton of some weird bugs that will drive you mad. Squash bugs seem to appear out of nowhere. One minute nothing and the next BAM! I have no clue where they came from or how they found me, but they did. Stupid bugs.

What are Squash Bugs?

Other than annoying? Squash bugs are most commonly found on squash plants (thus the name) such as zucchini, winter squash, and pumpkins. They may also affect other crops such as cucumbers, cantaloupe, and watermelon. They look a lot like a stink bug and often get confused with them, especially because both give off an odor when squashed. The difference is a squash bug is wider with a more round shape. They measure 5/8 inch long and 1/3 inch wide. They are usually dark gray to dark brown. Their abdomens have alternating orangish and brown stripes.

Seems like once you have them… they stick around… Squash bugs can live through the winter as adults in sheltered places, such as under plant debris, around buildings, or under rocks. When adults come out in the spring, they fly to growing cucurbit plants to feed and mate.

The Female squash bugs lay small clusters of eggs on the underneath sides of leaves. The females start appearing in late May/early June and will lay eggs through mid-summer. The eggs hatch in about 10 days. Once they hatch you have a nymph. A nymph matures in about 4-6 weeks. Nymphs will die when freezing weather hits. So not during the summer months.

What do the Squash Bugs Do?

Squash bugs tend to do a lot of damage. They use their sharp mouth to pierce the leaf of a squash plant. Then they leave toxic saliva in the plant. The plant starts to turn yellow and eventually brown to black. They can cause young plants to wilt and die, that is why it is necessary to take proper care when the plant is young. Larger, more mature plants can withstand a squash bug much better than young seedlings.

How to Control Squash Bugs

How do you control them? Seriously… Oy! They are annoying. The best is to get rid of them as eggs or nymphs. Adult squash bugs are more difficult to control and kill off.

One of the easiest ways is to carry a bucket of soapy water with you. Drop the bugs into the pail. But this is also difficult as the bugs move quickly and hide under leaves. If you find eggs squash them.

Another option is to trap squash bugs by laying out boards or pieces of newspaper. Squash bugs will group under the boards at night, you can then collect and destroy them in the morning.

Finally, apply a pesticide if you aren’t against that. Some people are. It is best to apply pesticides only if the plant is in the early stages and wilting. Apply early morning or late evening. And it really isn’t necessary to apply late in the summer or early fall. That’s just a waste of money.

How to Prevent Squash Bugs

  • Hold off planting until early summer.
  • If you can’t hold off that long (hello have you met me?) keep the plant covered until the flowers bloom. 
  • Whenever possible trellis your squash plants. This gives squash bugs fewer places to hide.
  • Clean out debris/old foliage at the end of the season. Fewer places for the bugs to “live” over the winter.
  • Typically squash bugs only produce one generation per season.
  • Plant companion plants that detour squash bugs such as catnip, tansy, radishes, nasturtiums, marigolds, bee balm, and mint.

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