Grow Zucchini instead of Yellow Squash
Try a Trap Crop
Use Floating Row Covers
Give Companion Planting a Try
Clean Up After Your Organic Squash Crop
Squash Bug Fast Facts:
squash bugs are about 5/8'' long and 1/4'' wide. They are grey
or black and have orange and brown stripes on the edges of their
Squash bug's preferred food: yellow crookneck and/or yellow
straight neck squash.
Generations per year: usually one, up to two in the Southern US.
Eggs: Yellow to bronze in color and deposited on underside of
leaves along leaf veins in groups of a dozen or more.
Squash Bugs are a garden insect pest that seem to drive many
people right to the brink of insanity. They are willing to feed
on any member of the cucurbit family and feel free to help
themselves to your cucumbers, summer and winter squash and
pumpkins. Once they have sucked the juices from these plants,
the vines often turn black and die back. To add insult to
injury, squash bugs will feed on the actual fruit of the plant
once they have become bored with feeding on the foliage.
It is possible to control squash bugs in your organic garden.
Careful planning will be the key to your success. There are
several modes of attack that can be incorporated into your plan.
These include altering your planting dates or your use of
certain plant varieties, mulching and tillage practices.
Squash bugs seem to prefer yellow summer squash and winter
squashes such as Hubbard and some types of pumpkins to cucumbers
or melons. So, if growing the perfect pumpkin isn't one of your
garden goals, you can save yourself a lot of heartache by not
planting them and spending your effort on cucumbers or melons
instead. If winter squash is a must in your organic garden, then
try planting varieties that have shown resistance to squash
bugs. These include Butternut and Royal Acorn. Squash bugs
prefer yellow summer squash to zucchini or patty pan summer
squashes, so if you're not particular about the types of summer
squash you grow, stick with the ones that the bugs like least.
Some studies have shown that companion planting and/or trap
cropping (growing the bug's favorite foods in order to lure them
away from your garden crops and into the "trap crop where you
will catch and destroy them) can provide some control as well.
Plants that are purported to repel squash bugs to some degree
are catnip, tansy, radishes, nasturtiums, marigolds, bee balm,
and mint. These can be planted near your squash plants with the
goal of keeping squash bugs from finding a home in your organic
Careful variety selection (or avoidance) combined with companion
planting will help with your squash bug problem but,
unfortunately, probably won't make it disappear. Planting your
squash later in the season, once the majority of the squash bugs
have already hatched and perished (or moved to your neighbor's
garden.) can help you gain the upper hand against these pests.
If this isn't possible due to the short length of your growing
season or isn't effective because you live in the South, where
squash bugs have two generations a year, try using floating row
cover to keep these pests off your plants. Using floating row
cover (a gauzy, see-through "blanket" that goes over your
plants) and keeping your plants well fed (with compost and/or
other organic fertilizers), and watered can help them fight off
the squash bugs.
Squash bugs do have natural enemies in the form of insects that
feed on them (spiders and ground beetles) and diseases that
strike them. Tachinid flies and some parasitic wasps prey on
squash bugs by laying their eggs in them. However, affected bugs
often continue to feed and lay eggs for a while after being
parasitized. Therefore, these beneficial insects may help you
have fewer squash bugs next year but probably won't help you
very much when it comes to saving this year's crop.
Once this year's squash has finished its season, be sure to
clean up after it properly. Tilling your squash patch and/or
removing the spent squash plants and composting them will bury
and/or kill many of the surviving adults squash bugs and will
eliminate the winter homes (leaf litter, weed cover) of many
Choosing your plant varieties and garden layout carefully,
keeping your plants and soil healthy, providing a pesticide-free
habitat for beneficial insects and doing a thorough garden clean
up in the fall will give you great results. Then, as you enter
your beautiful pumpkins in this year's fair or enjoy a
well-earned bite of sweet, organic, winter squash, congratulate
yourself for a job well-done.
For More Information:
Summary of organic squash bug control research-