How to Naturally Control Squash Bugs
Out of all of the things I have tried to grow over the year, yellow summer squash has to be my very favorite! It is easy to grow and take care of, and summer squash is one of my very favorite vegetables. You can do so many things with it, like bake, sauté, fry, or grill it. You can even cook a delicious squash casserole and more. We also love the green variety of squash, zucchini. It is more popular, and we like to make Zucchini Lasagna with our garden produce.
When I first began growing yellow squash and zucchini, I harvested just a few and then my plants started turning yellow and were dead before I knew what hit them. I assumed that I hadn't watered them enough – as it was a very hot summer and I was a gardening newbie. Well, I started reading up and wondered if squash bugs had taken over. I knew my dad and brother had talked about them, but I didn't see one in my garden, but then again, I never looked that closely.
Last year, I went all out and we made a big garden full of zucchini and yellow squash plants:
What I didn't realize at the time of planting was that my plants really were too close and it would be hard to harvest, but I did make the very most out of my space and we had TONS of squash and zucchini! However, before long, the plants started turning yellow again. Upon investigation, I found squash bugs all up in my plants and I was not happy. I was striving for an organic garden and didn't want to resort to chemicals, but something had to be done to save my plants.
I was advised to just find the squash bugs and squish them between my fingers. Um. Seriously? I was about four months pregnant and still feeling somewhat icky, I definitely didn't want to be killing nasty bugs between my fingers. But, I got some great gloves and set out in the garden. It actually became quite fun, believe it or not, to find those little nasty bugs and kill them. The kids even got into it when I got them (but really me) a cool bug vacuum toy. It didn't suck up the big, huge bugs, but it worked a few times for the little ones. My bro also advised that I look under leaves to find their eggs and squish them to kill them. This is what the eggs look like:
This year, I have cut down on the number of plants and am being proactive in killing the squash bugs before they take over the garden. Here is a list of a few great, natural ways to conrol the squash bugs in your garden, too:
- Closely inspect your squash, zucchini, melon, cucumbers, and other plants from the cucurbit family and kill any squash bugs you see. Also keep an eye out for squash bug nymphs, which are likely nearby eggs that they have just hatched out of.
- If you check for bugs during and right after watering, you will find that they climb to the top of your plants. This provides an easy way to capture and kill them.
- Check daily for eggs. I find that squash bugs love to lay their eggs on my tomato plants. Also, if you go out after dark, you can use a flashlight to easily spot the cluster of eggs under the leaves. Gently rub them back and forth with your fingers to kill them or remove the eggs and squish them with a spade or rock, burn them, or drop them in a bowl of water and soap (see #4.) Just make sure they die or else you'll see baby squash bugs very, very soon.
- Have a bowl of water with a little dish soap mixed in to throw eggs and squash bugs in. They will die without you having to squish them!
- Set out some bug trap boards. I haven't tried this, but if you have an infestation, it's sure to work.
- Get some 100% Neem Oil and a spray bottle or a lawn and garden sprayer. Mix with water, according to directions, and spray all over your plants. Hubby recently discovered neem oil for our grape vine aphids and have found that they will work for any bug that eats the fruits and veggies in your garden. The neem oil doesn't kill on contact, but is supposed to make them crazy and stop eating and mating, and thus, will kill them off. Neem oil can be applied any time of the day, up to the day of harvest and it doesn't kill those helpful bugs.
- Rake up any leaves or debris under the plants and throw them away because squash bugs love to hide.
- I have not tried this, but a lot of sources say that you can try a floating row cover to deter the bugs.
- I read a tip online last year that said after the growing season is over, leave one squash plant in the middle of your garden and wait a day and then go and kill all of the adult squash bugs because they will survive over the winter and lay their eggs in the summer if you don't. One man even said he sets his plant on fire, but you know, do that with caution if you want to! Either way, make sure you clean up the garden area afterwards so the bugs won't winter in your garden debris.
If you have any other tips for controlling squash bugs (or any other type of plant eating bug,) I'd love to hear about it in the comments! Good luck!
Check out these other gardening posts:
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