A squash bug is a small insect that’s brownish- black in color. Its body is covered by tiny hairs that help it feel the plant as it walks around it. It can also fly.
It mates and finds food during warm days. It’s major distinction from the stink bug is that it doesn’t produce the bad odor that the stink bug produces when threatened.
Adult squash bugs hide under shrubs, branches,rocks and fallen leaves. They emerge when it’s warm,just when you are planting your squash. Upon mating,they lay eggs on the bottom side of the leaves.
Squash bugs attack squash plants like cucumbers, zucchinis,melons among others.
To combat the bugs’ infestations,a gardener needs to learn a few things:
- How to recognize the bugs’ eggs, nymphs and the adults.
- The eggs are oval and have a dark brown color.
- The right control to get rid of the bugs
How to control squash bugs
Diatomaceous earth is a powder made from crushed rocks called diatoms. It works mechanically to kill bugs on contact by tearing down their exoskeleton, causing them to die from dehydration within 48 hours.
It should be applied directly to crevices and cracks inside and outside your house because this is where the bugs live and breed.
It can also be applied under and behind furniture, appliances, windowsills,doorways among other hiding places throughout your house.
Diatomaceous earth doesn’t stain and is odorless, and can be confidently applied in your home. It, however, needs to be reapplied after contact with water through plant watering or rain.
In the garden, the most effective method to control squash bugs is applying diatomaceous earth around the base of the plant.
Hand-picking the eggs before they hatch is one way to kill squash bugs. However, this is possible if you only have a few plants. Combining this with an insecticide will minimize the bugs’ damage.
What you need
- A spoon
- An empty glass/plastic container
- A little dishwashing liquid soap
Use the spoon to scrape off the eggs from the leaves and drop them into soapy water. Ensure the spoon comes out clean, and repeat the scraping process until there are no more eggs on the leaves.
The soapy water is used to dissolve the glue-like substance the female bug uses for attachment of her eggs to the leaves.
Using duct tape
Alternatively, you can use duct/masking tape to remove the eggs from the leaves. This method is simple but if not carefully done, it can damage the leaves.
What you need
- Duct tape
Place the sticky side onto the eggs, press it and pull it out quickly. With this method you do not require any pesticides.
For handpicking nymphs, larvae, and adults,these are the equipment you need:
- A heavy pair of garden gloves/ rubber gloves
- A glass/ plastic container
- A little Washing soap
Using a garden hose, spray water on the plants that are affected. This will make the bugs come out of their hiding place. When they are exposed, grab them and put them into the soapy water.
Cover the container overnight to kill the bugs before disposing them off.
Liquid washing soap
You can also spray soapy water on the bugs. Dish soap will kill the squash bugs.
What you need
- A little liquid castile soap or Dawn dish soap
- A gallon of water
- A spray bottle
Mix the soap and the water gently and spray on the leaves of your plants where you find the bugs.
The soapy water suffocates the bugs, and kills the eggs.
Water the plants afterwards to rinse off the soap from the leaves.
What will kill squash bugs
Nature has provided some predators against squash bugs.
The Tachinid fly is one predator. To attract it to the vegetable garden, gardeners plant flowers or carrots near the squash plants.
The fly lays its eggs on the bugs, and the larvae kill the squash bugs by eating them. Adult flies don’t harm your plants because they only feed on pollen and nectar.
Ground beetles and damselflies also consume squash bug eggs when they find them.
How do you keep squash bugs away naturally
Garden refuse is the reason you have squash bugs in your house. Squash bugs overwinter in vines,boards, fallen leaves and in piles of trash.
Because squash bugs will not go away on their own, a gardener needs to find ways to keep them away naturally.
Farmscaping as a method of organic gardening is a natural way of controlling pests.
Farmscaping is adding rows of flowers in the garden that are beneficial in nurturing natural predators. It also supports pollinating insects and beautifies the garden.
A garden cleanup helps expose any squash bugs from their hiding places during winter.
Collect fallen leaves and dispose of them in trash bags or in a compost pit, remove all spent plants from the garden and turn over your pile in the compost pit to unearth any squash bugs in hiding.
Use pine straw as mulch instead of leaves. Straw attracts natural predators of squash bugs like ground beetles.
Squash bug trap
Squash bugs often gather on the underside of wooden boards or logs at night.
Place a board or a shingle in your garden in the evening, and check under it for bugs in the morning. If you find any bugs, smash them by placing the board or shingle on a hard surface and then step on it. It’s advisable to do this daily until there are no more squash bugs in your garden.
Trap cropping is an organic pest control method of planting plants that repel unwanted pests.
Here are some examples of plants that repel squash bugs: dill,oregano,nasturtiums, amaranth, peppers among others.
This helps get rid of squash bugs when you plant a repellant where you had planted squash the previous season. The squash bugs will flee from that part of the garden.
Frequent crop rotation will ensure your garden is squash bug free.
Plant resistant squash varieties
Plant the varieties of squash that are resistant to squash bugs like butternut, sweet cheese, and Royal Acorn varieties.
To reap the benefits of your gardening, it is advisable to invest in insecticides and to try different control methods of the bugs to see which one works better for you.
If the bugs persist,seek help from a certified pest control officer.