Saturday, August 13, 2011

Squash Bugs

I’ve got squash bugs. This is the first time I’ve ever dealt with them, so I thought I’d share my research with you.

I had been noticing that squash would start forming on the plant, but then most of them would sort of shrivel up and die before they got very big at all, so I knew something was wrong but I just didn’t know what. Then a few days ago while I was weeding, I found a bug. I was pretty sure it was a squash bug, but wanted to be certain. I threw it in a bowl of water and it didn’t take long at all for him to stop swimming and sink to the bottom. As I continued my garden work, I began noticing some small, brown eggs on the underside of quite a few squash leaves. In all, I found about 12 leaves, each with ten to twenty eggs. I cut the leaves off the plant; but looking back on it, I think next time I’ll try to save the leaves. I finished my garden work and carried the bug inside with me. I image-googled “squash bug,” and found several good photos that proved my theory.

The best information I found was here and here, but I’ll try and summarize for you. Squash bugs suck vital nutrients from the leaves and stems of squash plants, eventually starving and killing the whole plant. If you notice some small, dead or yellowing areas on the leaves of your squash plant, this could be a sign of an infestation. The most effective way to get rid of adult bugs and nymphs is to hand-pick them off your plants. However, ideally you should keep an eye on your plants, looking for eggs on the undersides of leaves, and kill the eggs before they have a chance to hatch. The eggs hatch within one to two weeks. When the eggs are first laid, they are a light tan color. They darken with age. The eggs I found on my plants were a fairly dark brown, so I may have caught them just in time. I looked for information about ways to kill them, and the most oft-repeated tactic was to simply squish them, which I did. Appropriate for a “squash” bug, I suppose!

Squash bug eggs
To catch the adults, the method most suggested was to put a board down near the plant. The bugs will gather under the board at night for warmth, and in the morning you can just go out, pick up the board and eliminate the bugs. Another suggestion was to aim a garden hose at the base of the plant and soak the ground there, forcing the bugs to run up the plant stalk to escape the water, where again you can catch them. I did this with both of my squash plants, as well as my cucumbers, several times each. (Squash bugs prefer squash plants, but will settle for any member of the Cucurbitaceae family). I only found bugs on one plant. When I flooded the base of the plant, about 3 or 4 adults and only 2 or 3 nymphs emerged. I caught and killed those, then lightly dug around the base of the plant, unearthing a couple more nymphs and adults. I flooded the plant a few more times, but no more bugs emerged. So, either I didn’t yet have a bad infestation, or I didn’t get them all. I’ll have to keep an eye on the plants now and make certain I got rid of the bugs. 

Incidentally, that first bug I carried inside with me to identify on the computer? I had laid it on a piece of paper towel on my desk. I happened to glance over at it a few minutes after setting it down, and I didn’t see the bug. I picked up the paper towel, and there he was, hanging on the bottom side, alive as could be. I guess these bugs can play possum! Hmmm, maybe I didn’t flood them all out, then. Only time will tell.

4 comments:

  1. I found one of those things on the laundry line today, had no idea what it was. I threw it to the chickens and they devoured it. Bugs are one thing I don't have much trouble with. 52 ravenous chickens take care of scorpions, snakes, and other pests. I try not to think of that when I eat the eggs.

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  2. In the case of some winter squash.. if they have fruit set but not enough to draw from (nutrients.. stress) they will also abort very young immature fruit. Lack of proper pollination as well will cause it to happen.

    Depends on the type.

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  3. That looks like a stink bug to me.

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  4. Haha Arsenius! I'd try to forget that part too. 52 chickens is a lot, wow!

    Anne, I try to pollinate a couple times a week with a qtip, but I wondered about that too; haven't seen many pollinators around, especially since my sunflowers died.

    Matt, stink bugs and squash bugs are related but they aren't the same. Here's a couple links:

    http://easterniowalife.com/2011/06/16/homegrown-bugged-by-stink-bugs/

    http://www.growit.umd.edu/PlantandPestProblems/StinkBugSquashBug.cfm

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