Having pest issues? Here is how to get rid of squash bugs completely.
Squash bugs are indeed bad news to gardeners in early summer or late spring. These bugs are squash destroyers, and they can kill an entire pumpkin, zucchini, or any other squash plant if they are left unchecked.
These bugs are relatively large insects with a length of about 5/8 inches and a width of about 1/3 inches. They have flat bodies with their stomach having orange-brown stripes. Squash bugs come in different shades of gray- from dark gray to dark brown.
Their eggs come in either yellow or bronze and have an oval shape with no more than 1/16 inches long. And their nymphs appear with a light green stomach and blackheads and legs.
How To Get Rid Of Squash Bugs Completely
Squash bugs got their name for the sake of the wicked love they have for all plants in the Cucurbitaceae family. They love these vegetables so much that they will end up killing it unless the infestation is curbed and the pest eradicated.
As they feed on the sap of squashes, they release their saliva into the plants- this then disrupts the ability of the plant to circulate nutrients and water.
More so, their saliva contains toxins that are poisonous to a squash plant. They also help to spread the cucurbit yellow vine disease bacteria to all squash plants in the garden.
They may not be toxic to humans, but their destruction can affect the farm’s yield. It can also mock your efforts in having a green garden.
Once a squash bug is seen on any of your vegetables, just assume you have an infestation and carry out immediate extermination.
The following are the ways by which you can get rid of these unwanted bugs from your plant;
Hand Pick The Bugs
The easiest way to get rid of this bug is to handpick them out of your squash plant. This is possible when there is a mild infestation.
When you are used to paying close attention to your plants, it will be easy to find the bugs and pick them out.
You can do this religiously every morning and evening. Most times, you will find these bugs beneath the leaves, especially for leaves that are around the base of a plant.
Pick out the bugs and their nymphs, and when you see their collection of eggs, you can also pick them out, they are colored in gold, and you can find them in rows beneath the leaves.
The handpicking bug can be more accessible if you use water to rinse out the plants to make the insects more visible and also to exterminate them.
Use Soapy Water
Liquid dish soap can help get rid of this pest- this is also effective with an early infestation.
But then, as we enter summer, you should get ready for the bugs because they will come. So you can get a jar where you mix your liquid soap with water.
Pour the solution into a spray bottle and apply it to the plants. While it will knock some bugs out, it will make the other insects more visible so that you can pick them out of the plants.
The soapy water is capable of suffocating the bugs.
Plant Squash Bug Repellent Crops
One way to control the infestation of squash bugs is to do a nice blend of mixed cropping.
You can plant crops that repel them next to your pumpkin or watermelon. For instance, those pests detest nasturtiums, so you can plant the crop all around your vegetable to ward off the pest.
Other plants like dill, white icicle radishes, calendula, marigold, and oregano are all the crops that repel the bug. Once you plant any of this as a companion for your vegetables, the population of the bugs will naturally be depleted.
This is because the bug will not be able to stand the smell of the sight of plants that it detests.
Use Trap Crops
You can trap this bug by using what they love to eat the most to keep them away from your useful pumpkin and squash plants.
If you make use of this method right from the beginning of the summer, it will be beneficial. All you need to do is, cultivate a crop that is most favored by squash bugs- that will be your sacrificial crops.
To trap the bugs, place cardboard or some planks at the base of the plant. After a while, you will find the bugs hiding in the carton or the plank. You can pick them up and get rid of them
You can also trap them in the crop they love the most when you plant it as a companion to your vegetable. When they are trapped, you can spray them with an insecticide or any bug destroyer.
The Blue Hubbard squash plant is a useful trap crop. What you do with this plant in your garden is that you place the plant a little away from your other squashes. In no time, you find the bugs coming for the Hubbard crop.
Visit the plant from time to time to get rid of the bugs.
Invite Their Natural Predators
Inviting their natural predator is a biological way of controlling this pest, which is a better approach to dealing with the pest.
When you use chemical pesticides or other organic substances, the disadvantage is that it will also get rid of beneficial insects like the pollinators, which are an essential part of the cycle of life. But when you invite a Tachinid fly to the squash bug-infested areas, it will naturally reduce their population till the bugs are no more.
This fly is smaller than the bug, so they don’t feed on the insects. What they do is lay eggs on the body of the adult squash. When the eggs hatch, they kill the bug by burrowing into its body.
You can either buy a tachinid fly, or you can plant crops that attract them. Some of the herbs that will attract the flies are; calendula and dill.
Use Diatomaceous Earth
This is a powdery substance that s effective in combating all kinds of insects, whether it is a pest or beneficial.
However, Diatomaceous Earth will not be very useful in exterminating the bug as much as it is effective in getting rid of the nymphs, this is because squash bugs have a hard shell, so the substance does not penetrate its body.
But then, it will help depopulate squash bugs if the pests never make it past the nymph stage. But you need to be careful when applying this substance to your plants. You need to make sure that it does not get to the petals because it is also toxic to beneficial insects and will get rid of them on contact as well.
Neem Oil And Squash Bugs
Neem plant is one of the natural repellents for squash bugs. The neem plant, also called Azadirachta indicia, is highly toxic to a wide range of insect pests including squash bugs.
It is also dangerous to humans and animals; this is why you need to be careful about having this plant around.
Planting a neem tree to get rid of squash bugs is a ridiculous way of exterminating the insects; the better alternative is to get the neem oil. You can get neem oil at your local store, garden shops, or you can place your order online.
The smell of the neem oil alone can repel the bugs, more so, when the oil is sprayed on the plants and around the infested area, it will be hard for the bugs to feed on the same plant. If they eventually feed on the plants sprayed with neem oil, they will die.
While neem oil cannot help get rid of the eggs of these pests, they can effectively get rid of the nymphs even as it gets rid of adult bugs.
Unlike chemical insecticide, there is no risk of contamination using neem oil to ward off garden pests. However, there is a need to apply caution while handling this oil because it has some level of toxicity to mammals, including humans. So you should keep it far away from children and pets.
You need to be careful and make sure the oil does not get to your skin or mouth. While it can bring about an irritation of your skin, ingesting it can cause stomach upset. This is why there is a need for you to put on a pair of hand gloves while spraying neem oil on the plants around the garden.
Also, there is a need to apply caution when using it on the garden- ensure that it does not get to the petals of flowers because it is toxic to pollinators like bees and butterflies as well.
It is necessary to pay attention to your plants and always be ready for the arrivals of the bugs in early summer or late spring. Whenever you see any sign of leaves that might have been eaten or any leaves wilting and turning yellow, you need to treat the plant immediately before it gets out of control.
Another thing you want to avoid; is the use of chemical insecticide; while you are faced with the risk of contamination, it might also not be as effective.
A good intercropping and planting of companion crops that either trap the pest, invite their predators, or repel the pest itself will also help in curbing an infestation.