Commonly found in North America, Squash Bugs are damage causing pests that typically attack plants within the cucurbit family. They are particularly fond of the squash plant, hence the name. The adults are also commonly referred to as Stink Bugs or Leaf-Footed Beetles. The damage these little buggers—or rather the nymphs—can cause is immense and, as such, most farmers often look for effective methods of how to get rid of Squash Bugs.
Identifying Squash Bugs
If you are going to effectively learn how to get rid of Squash Bugs, you first must learn how to identify them. Once you know what you are looking for it is much easier to focus your efforts on where they can be found. Here are some things you need to know to identify a Squash Bug:
Squash Bugs Identification and Characteristics:
What do they look like?
A typical squash bug is brownish or gray in color and grows over 1/2 inch in length. They have a flat back and the underside of their abdomen, as well as their edges, have orange stripes.
Can they fly? Yes, they are able to fly but they don’t often do so. Instead, they just walk around eating and laying eggs on the leaves of your plants.
What do their young look like? Little Squash Bug babies are gray in color and have black legs. These nymphs move fairly quickly and operate in large clusters that congregate on the undersides of leaves.
What are their typical habits? Squash Bugs tend to overwinter in vines, dead leaves under boards, and in your house. Once vines start forming on your cucurbit plants, they fly off into your gardens and start to mate. They lay their eggs in large numbers on the underside of plant leaves. You will also tend to find the adult Squash Bugs under damaged leaves.
To say that they are destructive to your garden would be an understatement. The damage Squash Bugs can cause, if unmitigated, can be total and complete.
What kind of Damage Can Squash Bugs Cause?
One of the telltale signs of a plant that is suffering from a squash bug infestation is that its leaves get yellow spots and then eventually turn brown. Squash Bugs cause this kind of damage by injecting a toxin into the leaves of the plants on which they are feeding. They will suck the sap out of any leaves they attack with their sharp mouths. The leaves will then wilt away as the damage caused prevents the plant from providing the leaves with the right kind of nutrients necessary for them to remain healthy.
After a little while, the leaves dry up, turn crisp and brittle then fall off. The plants will die. They can also completely decimate young fruit. Squash Bugsspread quickly and, unless you can identify and eradicate them in time, entire squash crops can be lost.
How to Prevent Squash Bugs
As is the case with most bug infestations, prevention is always the better option. There are ways through which you can keep your garden or farm free of Squash Bugs. Here are some tips on how to prevent Squash Bugs from infesting your garden:
Burn or compost squash vines: When fall arrives, the best thing you can do to old squash vines is to burn or compost them. This goes a long way in ensuring that you do not reintroduce previous Squash Bug infestations that were overwintering under the dead leaves into your garden. These vines can also provide shelter for breeding in which case you will be introducing new generations of Squash Bugs into your farm.
Practice crop rotation: This is an excellent agricultural practice that not only keeps the soil fertile and crop worthy, but also minimizes the spread of bug infestations.
Avoid deep cool mulches: Using straw mulches or hay in your farm provide a favorable environment for Squash Bugs to breed and thrive. Using other alternatives eliminates these environments which in turn helps to keep the probability of getting a squash infestation at a minimum.
Cover vines until they blossom: You could also consider keeping vines covered until they begin to blossom. Remember to remove the cover to facilitate pollination. Because Squash Bugs only have one generation per year, you can easily avoid them by waiting until the early months of summer to start planting as well as keeping your vines covered through the first month of spring.
Try companion planting: They are certain plants that repel Squash Bugs such as nasturtium and tansy. Plant these around the plants that are typically infested with squash bugs and they might just deter these little critters from taking hold.
Choose Squash Bug resistant varieties of squash: There are different varieties of the squash plant that are more resistant to the squash bug than most. Varieties such as ‘Sweet Cheese’, ‘Butternut’, and ‘Royal Acorn’ are more resistant to these kinds of bug infestation.
Over-plant your squash: This is simply a matter of playing the numbers. If you plant more squash plants than you need, then the loss you may experience from a squash bug infestation will not be as devastating.
This video gives you a quick rundown on how to spot Squash Bug infestation as well as how to get rid of them:
If, however, you already started spotting a Squash Bug infestation and are afraid that it might be too late to start taking preventative measures, then your next best option to learn how to get rid of squash bugs from your farm.
How to Get Rid of Squash Bugs
When it comes to Squash Bugs or any bug infestation for that matter, early detection is key to not only preventing them from spreading but to also getting rid of them. You are, therefore, advised to keep an eye out for the telltale signs of a Squash Bug infestation such as yellow spots on the leaves of your squash plant as well as the browning and falling off of said leaves. Here are some effective methods you can use to get rid of squash bugs from your garden:
Hand-pick them off the plants: This is one of the most effective ways to get rid of Squash Bugs in your farm. Because you should be spending almost every day or at least once every few days to ensure that no infestations are afoot, you can use this time to hand pick any Squash Bugs from your plants. The process is as simple as it sounds; just pick them off the leaves. It is advisable to have a bucket of soapy water with you so you can drop them in there to drown. Once they are dead, you can simply pour the water out. Also, you can use a butter knife to scrape their eggs off the leaves of the infected plants. Just simply scrape them off and drop them on the ground where they will be eaten by beetles.
Attract beneficial insects to your garden: Some insects help control Squash Bug populations by killing and feeding on them. One such insect is the Tachinid Fly. These helpful little insects actually lay their eggs on the back of adult Squash Bugs. Once the eggs hatch, the little Tachinid Fly babies will burrow their way into the Squash Bug and feed on it thus killing it. The best way to attract Tachnid Flies to your garden is to use companion planting. Plant dill or calendula alongside your squash plants and these flies will come.
Use Diatomaceous Earth: This is by far one of the most effective and popular insecticides used by farmers. Diatomaceous Earth makes microscopic cuts in the bug’s exoskeleton thus drying it out in the long run. Go for the food grade version instead of the industrial grade. All you have to do is spread a layer of Diatomaceous Earth at the base of the infected plant. This insecticide doesn’t work when wet so you may need to reapply as necessary.
Trap them using a board or shingle: You can easily trap Squash Bugs by placing a board or shingle in your garden at night. During those dark hours, the adult and nymph Squash Bugs will congregate on that board. Come morning, all you have to do is squash them between the board and hard surface to kill, then simply dispose of the dead bugs.
It is advisable to keep checking your plants at least once every two days or so. If there aren’t more than just a few leaves or vines infested, then you can use the above methods to get rid of them. If, however, the infestation is too widespread, then you might need to call in a pest management professional. We are well equipped to help you get rid of any Squash Bug infestation no matter how large or small scale. Give us a call today and let us help you save your crop from these vile little critters.