How to Control Squash Bugs in the Garden!

Squash bugs (Anasa tristis) can be a nemesis to home gardeners who want to grow crops such as squash, cucumbers, and pumpkins. Squash bugs drain the sap from the leaves of plants which damages the plant’s ability to process water, causing wilting and possibly death in young seedlings. It is important to catch squash bugs early on, most commonly starting to appear around June.

How to Spot a Squash Bug:

The adult squash bug has a flattened body that is about a quarter inch long and black or brown in coloration. Squash bugs hatch from eggs as small almost spider-like black insects and transition to light colored nymphs and then mature into adult squash bugs. Nymphs and adults will both scatter if the plant is disturbed so it can be difficult to locate them; an easy sign that a squash bug has invaded your plant is to check for squash bug eggs. The female squash bug lays her eggs on the underside of the leaf, usually between the leaf veins. Clusters of brown round-shaped eggs will be present.

How to Eradicate Squash Bugs:

Unfortunately for those who are not the biggest fans of squishing bugs, squishing is one of the easiest and most effective ways of eliminating squash bugs. To eliminate eggs, simply turn over the leaves of the plant and crush the clusters of eggs with your fingers. Adult squash bugs are harder to catch and thus it is important to catch squash bugs as soon as possible. Adult squash bugs and nymphs can be killed by pulling them off the plant and putting them in a bucket of soapy water. Placing newspaper in your garden will give the squash bugs an area to hide under; you can then capture them under this hiding place the following morning (before they move back to the plants to feed). This can be effective at a smaller scale, but if you have a lot of infected plants you may not want to spend your days seeking them out and drowning them. Another strategy is the use of organic insecticidal soaps. Insecticidal soap can be bought or made by simply adding four teaspoons of a mild soap to a gallon of water. You can also add two tablespoons of neem oil if you want to take a more aggressive action.  Apply the insecticidal soap in the morning or night: after the threat of leaf burn from the sun has subsided. Spray the undersides of the leaves and try to target only affected areas because neem oil can burn the leaves. After spraying the areas, the majority of squash bugs and nymphs should be dead. You can then use a hose to wash off the insecticidal soap to reduce the risk of leaf burn. Also simple cleaning of dead leaves and debris around the base of the plant will help eliminate places that the bugs can hide.

Squash bugs can be a menace to your summer and fall garden, but not to fear, solutions are easy to apply and you will see your hard work pay off with beautiful healthy crops!

This summer, at the farm, we did not have an issue with squash bugs on our crops, however one of our garden areas has been battling with whitefly infestations. Whiteflies are another summertime pest that can wreak havoc on your garden: read the following to learn how to combat whiteflies in the garden.