Squash Bugs Active Now
In last week’s article, I wrote about the squash vine borer. This week, I’ll discuss the other most common pest of squash, the squash bug.
These bugs can be very destructive, as their population builds up quickly. They feed on plants (both leaves and fruit) in the squash family, including cucumbers, melons, and pumpkins, although they seem to prefer yellow squash and zucchini.
Squash bugs resemble stink bugs and are in the same family. Adult squash bugs have blackish-brown bodies that resemble shields and have a triangle on their back.
Their eggs, laid in clusters, are very small, shiny, and copper colored. They are usually found on the undersides of leaves, but are sometimes laid on the upper side of the leaf.
When squash bugs feed on plants, they inject a toxin, causing leaves to turn black, wilt, and die. If left alone, they can kill plants. Inspecting plants regularly will help to catch problems before they are out of control.
Eliminating eggs by removing leaves whenever they are seen will help to keep squash bug populations down. Eggs should be destroyed or the leaves should be thrown away, not left in the garden or composted. Some insecticides will work, but they’re most effective if applied when the bugs are first seen.
Squash bugs like to hide under mulch and debris in or around the garden. This can be used against them. A board laid next to the stem of a squash plant is a good shelter for squash bugs. Lifting the board in the early morning should reveal squash bugs that hid under the board during the night. With them congregated under the board, they are easy to destroy.
Squash bugs can spend the winter in the soil, nestled under old plants or leaves left in the garden. Cleaning up the garden and tilling in the fall will reduce squash bug numbers for the following year. Also, rotating crops so squash is not grown in the same place year after year will help.
For more information on vegetable gardening, visit http://go.ncsu.edu/mm4l5k.