Win the War on Squash Bugs
For the last four years we've had diminishing returns on our squash. I've tried successive planting, planting later than usual, and earlier than usual. In the best years I might get one or two squash before the squash bugs decimated my crop.
They are the bane of my gardening existence. I've picked them off by hand and sucked them up with a shop vac. The shop vac actually worked pretty well, but once you start seeing adults, the damage is done. Just pull up the plants, burn them, and close up shop. You won't be getting any squash.
Believe me, I've tried to keep up with the horde, but there are too many of those plant-sucking bastards. (I'm sure their parents were not married.) Despite my efforts, in the end I always lose.
This year something unusual happened. My spaghetti squash seed had cross pollinated with zucchini. I am getting gigantic, fat zucchini (which are surprisingly delicious), alongside my spaghetti squash.
That was a side bonus. The real eye opener is when I was examining the zucchini/spaghetti squash cross. I had moved a couple of leaves to get a better picture of it and that's when I saw the mass of eggs pictured above.
Squash bug eggs! I almost hurt myself trying to scrape them off. Now that I knew the squash bugs were laying their spawn I got to work, turning over every leaf and looking for more egg masses.
The first day I found twelve. One of them had just hatched and the babies were crawling on the leaf. They had a very short life. Better luck next time suckers!
The second day I found four--but one egg mass had also hatched. This means I must've missed it the day before. It's easy to do. There are so many leaves and the eggs are tiny, hiding in the crooks of the veins of the leaves.
The third day I found only one new mass of eggs.
I have checked every day since June 1. My goal is to beat them at their own game. They arrived later this year. My squash plants are very well grown. Usually, they're quite small when they get decimated which is why I never get squash.
This year my zucchini has performed admirably and only now am I battling the bugs.
I had planned on buying squash bug-resistant varieties this year, but the pandemic made my suppliers sell out before I could order.
I'm not calling it a success yet, but I am winning, so I want to share what I've learned.
PS Don't forget your gloves. Squash vines and leaves are quite spikey.
Here's what's helped me.
- Check: Get into the habit of checking the undersides of your squash plant leaves.
- Don't Wait: If you see any damage, investigate immediately. You may only have a few hours before the infestation gets out of hand.
- Scrape: If you find eggs, scrape them off. I take no chances and scrape them into a bucket.
- Destroy the spawn: If you find babies, squish them.
- Search the mulch: Adult squash bugs will hide in mulch. I mulched my garden this year, so I'm being very diligent about disturbing the mulch and seeing if there's any movement.
- Decoy: Place a small piece of wood near the plant. Squash bugs (and slugs) like to hide there.
- Location, location, location: Try a different location. This year I planted squash in several different spots in my garden, including a small patch outside the garden proper. The one outside the garden is performing the best with no sign of eggs, but the zucchini/spaghetti squash cross is also doing great despite the recent egg deposits.
- Mess with their home: Disturb the soil before you plant. I did this right after a cold snap in December. I thought perhaps if the squash bugs are overwintering, I can expose them to freezing temps. It didn't seem to work, but there are far less of them than last year so maybe it worked a little.
- BT: Bacillus Thuringiensis is more for squash borers, but it does kill the babies of squash bugs. I spray the base of the squash plants every few days.
- Try other varieties: Buy bug-resistant squash. I haven't tried these varieties yet, but I plan to try them next year. Squash shown in order: Tromboncino, Zucchini Eight Ball, Tatume.
|Click to buy|
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|Click to buy|
If I miss even one set of eggs, I will doom my harvest so I'm doing my best to keep on top of it. I even left myself a digital reminder for next year on when to start checking my squash.
It might seem like a lot of work for squash you can buy at the store, but it's become a matter of principle. I refuse to be defeated by these plant suckers. Besides, fresh squash tastes so much better than store bought. I found a fantastic recipe, currently in testing. (I'm trying different variations.) I'll post the recipe soon. If you're getting a lot of squash, you're going to love this recipe.
Squash Bug Sufferers, I feel your pain. What's your story? Have you tried a different location or planting them in containers? Have you given up?
It was a happy accident that I got a cross pollinated squash. If it hadn't caught my attention I never would've checked the leaves in time.
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