Squash bugs just make me want to squish them. They have taken over a few of my squash plants this year and it has been an uphill daily battle to keep them under control. Battling squash bugs in the garden organically is no easy feat but this year, I am determined to win.
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What Is A Squash Bug?
Squash bugs are small hard shelled flying insects that live under fallen leaves, wood and other debris in your garden. Adult squash bugs are about 1/2 inch long with a flat grey or brown back. While the nymphs, or juvenile bugs are often light grey with black legs. And those buggers are fast.
You may find squash bugs on pumpkins, zucchini, winter squash, pattypan squash and sometimes they even find themselves at home on cucumber & melon plants. Pretty much any member of the cucurbits family is fair game for them.
The adults can fly but prefer to walk around on the plants and near the base of the plants. After mating, they lay their eggs on the underside of the squash leaves. Here is a picture of some eggs I found earlier this year:
What to do if you find squash bugs in the garden?
That is a tricky question. If you are determined to rid your squash of these troublesome pests, it is best to get to work on them as soon as you see them appear. The longer they hang around your plants, the quicker the population grows until your plants cannot keep up with the destruction, wilt, and eventually die.
If you start early, you can spread DE or Diatomaceous Earth around the base of the plants. DE is an organic pest control method that is made up of the fossilized remains of microscopic phytoplankton ie. aquatic organisms called diatoms. The skeletons of these tiny creatures are mostly comprised of silica.
So, how does it kill the bugs?
DE has sharp edges that can cause tiny abrasions on the bug’s shell or exoskeleton. With their shells compromised, they will dry out and die. Diatomaceous Earth tends to work best on young, juvenile bugs. The adult’s harder shell makes it tougher to penetrate. But be careful where you use this because DE can also harm the friendly bees that are just trying to pollinate your plants for you.
Since the insect has to crawl through the DE to be coated with it, bees have a bit of an advantage that they rarely crawl around the base of your plants. So as long as you keep it off the flowers and leaves, you should be good.
How to get rid of squash bugs in the garden Organically.
Another option is essential oils. Since here at Yardibles, we are all about organic gardening and pest control, this is another great option. If you start late on controlling the squash bugs they can quickly get out of hand. Another option is to mix up a spray to keep them away from your plants to begin with.
Essential Oils to Repel BugsCedarwood
Just mix about 6 drops each oil into a spray bottle filled with filtered water. Spray this around the base of your plants and the nearby soil. You can also spray the leaves, but it is best to that in the early morning or evening so you do not risk burning them in the heat of the day. This solution will repel them from your plants but does not necessarily kill them.
For an extra kick, you can add some Neem oil to the mix. Neem oil is a natural pesticide form the seeds of the Neem tree. Just add a few drops to your essential oil mixture above and follow the same application guidelines.
Best option, but most time consuming
Hand-picking off the squash bugs as soon as you see them is a guaranteed way to reduce the numbers. They are very hard to catch and hide under the stems of the leaves. I prefer to use gloves when I handpick off the bugs. Place them in a jar of water with a few drops of dish soap mixed in. They will not be able to crawl out and quickly drown.
As for the eggs, you can scrape them off into a jar, but they do not come off easily, I find that just pulling off that part of the leaf seems to work well. You can also try wrapping your hand with tape, sticky side out, and press it onto the eggs and bugs to remove them quickly.
Let me know what works for you! I would love some new ideas for battling squash bugs in the garden.