Dealing with squash bugs

Many years ago, I didn’t know what a squash bug was.  Gasp!  That’s hard for me to believe now.

And unless you have encountered them in your garden, you many not know what they are either.  Consider yourself fortunate.

Can I just say that innocence is bliss!

They look like this.  And they are intense.

Dealing with squash bugs

The first time I remember them in my garden was a year that I grew a whole bunch of pumpkins at the back of my garden.  I didn’t pay much attention to the plants as they were growing – mostly because I couldn’t easily get to them.  The way things were planted that year meant that it took a lot of acrobatics to climb over other plants to get back to the pumpkins.  Needless to say, I didn’t go back there very often.

Until I noticed some big green pumpkins growing and then I wanted to keep an eye on them so I could pick them when they were ripe.

But as they got closer to ripening, I noticed quite a few bugs on them but didn’t think much of it.

Then I noticed more and more bugs.  At the worst point, I could have taken a drinking cup and scooped through them and filled the entire cup with one swipe.

There were that many squash bugs.

Luckily, I was able to salvage a couple of pumpkins.  It was a variety that had a very thick skin so even though the plants suffered heavily, the fruits themselves were pretty much unscathed.  Whew!

Pumpkin squash bugs

But ever since then, I have had a battle with the squash bugs each summer.

I’ve never been able to completely eradicate them from my garden but I have been able to keep them under control.  Here are some things that have worked for me so far.

  1. Choose a resistant variety – the butternut type squashes are not their favorite food.  Last year I planted bush acorn squash, rampicante vining squash and Seminole pumpkins.  The only one that was not in the butternut family was the acorn squash.  The squash bugs stayed on the acorn squash plants and never even went to the other two.
  2. Catch any adults you find – as soon as I see any adults on the plants, I grab a used water bottle and put a little bit of soapy water in the bottom.  I scoop the squash bug into the bottle with the lid where it falls to the bottom of the bottle and the soapy water kills it within a few minutes.
  3. Check for eggs – the female squash bug will lay her eggs on the underside of the leaves or occasionally on the stems.  Once I see adults on the plants, I start to check for eggs.  When I find a cluster, I use DUCT TAPE to collect them.  The tape gathers all of the eggs in one fell swoop but does not damage the leaves at all.  Sometimes I even use the duct tape to catch adults and juveniles that I see.  Bwwa, ha, ha.

These methods have done a good job of keeping the population at bay so I can at least get a harvest.  But if I miss a few days or go on vacation, they quickly take over.  Those suckers are prolific!

I am still on the lookout for a GREAT solution for getting rid of squash bugs.  Here is an article from one of my favorite gardening bloggers about dealing with squash bugs. Some of her suggestions I’m not comfortable with but you might be okay with them.

Here are a few ideas that I might try in the future:

  • Planting early (to beat the squash bug season) or planting late (to miss the earliest population explosion)
  • Trap cropping (planting a plant that they LOVE so they will flock to it and leave my other plants alone)
  • Companion planting with either flowers or herbs – some good choices that I have heard of are nasturtiums, marigolds, onions, dill, lemon balm, peppermint, catnip or cilantro.  Although lemon balm and peppermint are both perennial plants so I don’t know that I would plant them in the squash patch but putting the leaves in there might work.

Some things I am not willing to try:

  • Diotemacious Earth
  • Soap spray
  • Neem oil
  • Insecticidal soap or other chemical sprays (organic or not)
  • planting every other year

I’m sure these things would work but I’m not willing to take the risk.  If I’m not willing to put something in my mouth, I’m certainly not willing to put it on my garden.  No thanks.  I’ll take the bugs instead.

So these have been my adventures with squash bugs so far..

What about you? Do you have anything that works on these guys? Please share below.

And if you want information on how to grow squash and pumpkins in your own garden, check out my post about it here.

Even with the risk of squash bugs, it’s worth planting some nonetheless!

Happy squash planting!

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