How to Get Rid of Squash Bugs

I really really really really hate squash bugs! They are the bane of my existence. We scarcely ever even get a single squash from a single plant in our garden. If there was a way to remove those suckers from the face of the earth, I sure would do it. They are disgusting! Boo!

I have heard 100 tales of how to rid my life and garden of those creepy creatures, and I have tried every single one. Rotate crops, intercrop, hand picking, use Seven, even that doesn’t work! I have not tried it but a friend of mine used it when our first year gardening and I handpicked mine and we ended up with the same results, a million more came. It seems like there is nothing, and I mean nothing that will rid my life of squash bugs.

Squash bugs STINK!

Squash is attacked early in the season in Oklahoma by the squash vine borer. These little monsters are a black and red wasp looking bug that lay their eggs in the stems of the squash and when they hatch they eat the stems from the inside, killing the plant all at once within a few days.


Squash bug damage

squash bug

They are stinky little bugs. When I was a kid we always called them stink bugs. They make a yucky smell when you squish them. I have heard hand picking in the best way to decrease the population. Last year after we picked thousands of them, we went out and saw thousands more. Squash bugs are relentless.

Hand pick squash bugs.

The best way to hand pick them is wrap your hands in duct tape with the sticky side out and just press it onto the adults, nymphs or eggs and they stick right to it. You can do it until your tape is full and then make another “sticky glove” and start again.

squash bug eggs

Another method for hand picking is pick and smash, this is a little much for me. You can also hand pick them and throw them in a bucket of soapy water and they will die immediately.

Many people have said if you rotate your crops, they will go away. I rotate every year, but in the case of the squash bug, I really think you would have to rotate to China to outrun the suckers.

Some people have suggested planting a large variety of squash and the squash bugs will eat one kind and leave the others alone. I have planted 10-20 types of squash yearly and they eat it all, they eat summer squashes first, then winter, then onto the cucumbers, then the melons and finally whatever else is left in the garden. Those things are evil.

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Try everything you can think of. 

This year I decided to do an experiment and test the numbers. We planted 15 kinds of squash all over the garden in different places than we planted squash last year. We planted one kind in the three sisters plan, with corn for the trellis, beans for the nitrogen and they climb up the corn, and the squash grows on the ground to shade the roots of the other plants. The other plants are supposed to deter the pests of the squash plants.

I had placed pumpkins all around the perimeter of our fence on the outside last fall after our trunk or treat at church and let those sprout up on their own. I thought maybe the bugs would go there and stay outside of the garden. Sadly, the borers took those out very quickly.

growing squash

 

We also did an old wives tale where you let the seed sprout, then you cut and x in an aluminum pie pan. Then you feed the seedling carefully through the hole in the pan. The pan is supposed to deter the bugs from getting to the plant.

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In addition, We did a method where you inter-plant your squash with white icicle radishes. So we had five different factors to check.

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No squash ever survives.

I will report to you that no squash survived in our garden. The variety did not seem to help as all of the squash is eaten. The pumpkins, of course went first, then next to go was the pie pan method. I don’t know if the pans and the hot sun burned those up or what but inside the garden, they were the first to go.

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Next to die off was the three sisters squash. The corn and beans did great, and the beans are still going strong, but we got no squash from there. Last but not least, the longest lasting squash survivor were the ones that were planted with the white icicle radishes. We planted the radishes all over our garden where there were squash, melons, or cucumbers after that. Not many of them germinated because it’s so blasted hot right now, but I do think it will help deter the little bugers. So far it has anyway. We are just now losing our cucumbers to them and usually we never get to harvest this long.

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Plant a lot of squash.

We planted new squash plants all over the area as well, hoping maybe to get some type of harvest later in the season. In Oklahoma we have a really long growing season, so you never know. It depends on when old man winter decides to show up. Quite frankly, it’s hot and I miss him a lot! Hopefully it was not too hot for the seeds, but we will try to plant again in a few days if we get a cool spell of under 95 degrees. Maybe they will have a chance then.

Some people suggest using Diatomaceous Earth to cut down the population. It’s a great natural product and does help with the nymphs but not adult squash bugs. Also, it can harm pollinators, so you have to be careful not to get it in the flowers. Another draw back of DE is that you have to reapply when any moisture gets on it. Here, it’s so humid, that means everyday. Click here to see more about DE. 

I won’t lie and say any of these methods are sure fire or give you hope you can totally get rid of them. I’m being honest, some methods help and some don’t. I know that being vigilant and removing as many as you can is your best hope. Also, at the end of the season, clean up your garden well so they won’t have places to hide and winter over.

The best advice is to do these things early and often to have the best season possible. Be vigilant, and don’t give up because gardening is fun and you get to have veggies. 

If you have a great idea of how to get rid of these awful creatures or at least slow them down a bit, I would love to hear it! 

Be sure to pin for later.

How to Get Rid of Squash Bugs

 

35 comments

  1. Cyntha says:

    We had greater success finding the squash bugs at night with a flashlight, when it wasn’t so hot. I am actually going to try putting my squash in a new location, under pop up laundry container baskets. If I can keep them off to begin with, much less work for me. I hope I am more successful this way. Have to keep trying something. Here’s hoping!

  2. Julie Taber says:

    I had better luck last year by planting late. Will do that again. Floating row covers help, also.

  3. Lisa says:

    I actually had a good year last year with squash bugs, but it was SO much work! Every single morning I took my duct tape and checked every. single. leaf. for eggs and bugs. I was quite obsessed with these bugs, but it did actually work. I got a beautiful harvest from (most) my squash varieties. I did, however, only have maybe 6 plants. And even those took a good chunk of my morning each day. My big problem last year became powdery mildew on pumpkin and zucchini plants. Any suggestions for that?

    • I don’t know about powdery mildew except for making sure you are careful when watering. I have heard soaker hoses help with that, but i don’t have them yet, so i don’t know. I’m so glad you had a good growing season. Here’s to a great 2017.

    • Angels in the Making Childcare/Preschool says:

      What did you do with the duct tape? I was in the garden every morning and afternoon and those buggers still over powered me!

      • We just made a “glove” by wrapping it around our hands inside out and then pressed it onto all the eggs, nymphs and bugs until it was full and then made a new glove, then they go right into the trash. Nasty buggers!

        • Lisa says:

          I turned the tape inside out and used the sticky side to gather the eggs, nymphs, or adults. After I caught some, I turned the tape onto itself and squished the little jerks and tossed them. It was a tireless job, but really worked!

    • John Newcomer says:

      I prune all my vining plants especially squash and cukes. This has helped more than anything else. Pruning along the main stem by taking all the suckers, male blossoms, and leaves keeps the airflow going, eliminates mildews and hiding places for bugs. As you remove the older leaves up to the one preceding your female blossom you will be removing eggs and mildews. Burn the darn things (or, at least, dispose of them so the won’t hatch and spread). I use a few drops of blue dawn dish soap, red pepper and garlic in a spray bottle with water to control the bugs. Let the mix sit overnight to “ripen”, strain the fresh garlic mash and fill the bottle. This was a recipe my granddad taught me that works as good as anything else and isn’t a problem toxin.

  4. David Ogden says:

    I just planted squash live in Florida. I plan to use yellow sticky paper around the plant. I never did this before but i’m going to try and see what happens.

  5. Mary says:

    Has anyone tried food grade diatinatious earth? If so did that work? I am going to try that this year.. last year’s garden didn’t yeld a thing.. and I have an exterminator come out… even when there’s no garden they are everywhere. .

  6. Melissa Brown says:

    We have a pet Turkey named JimTom. Can’t wait to put him in the garden for squash bugs. So glad to have read the post about Tina!

  7. Beckie says:

    Last July we acquired a young turkey(Tina – possibly a standard bronze -or-possibly wild) that we allowed in the garden because turkeys don’t scratch like chickens. She ate almost all the shield bugs and squash beetles she could find, then she would just beg for us to help her find more. She never ate a spider or a worm. Turkeys make very little noise and are far more independent that chickens and ducks. Lastly, they are wicked friendly! We had our best zucchini harvest from two plants maybe 20 zucchini each. Just before we got Tina, our squash/zucchini plants were infested we were going to pull them out. Just a thought for you. -side note – She slept in a tree outside our house and greeted us each morning at the kitchen window or front door.

  8. barb mccormack says:

    I used to harvest 200 per day to feed to my baby chicks while my husband listened to Paul Harvey.
    We never ran out and they were never difficult to find. I have one girlfriend that used her vacuum on a daily basis to try to get rid of them.. We have had no luck at all.

  9. Kayla says:

    This article jam packed with information! Thank you for your hard work for collecting this information. It’s unfortunate that such a lovely vegetable has such a nasty pest and there seems to be nothing working.

  10. Those things are NASTY!!!

    Have you ever tried planting marigolds throughout your garden? They have been helpful to keep pests away from our tomatoes (the only vegetable that gave us problems).

    Just trying to help!

  11. Angels in the Making Childcare/Preschool says:

    We also are fighting tooth and nail for our squash with the squash bugs. We have been checking the leaves daily for the eggs and removing the leaves that have eggs on them. Those that have hatched were gladly squashed (pun intended) between rocks. We were lucky enough to have a praying mantis help us out there. I plan to till up the garden this fall, and again as early as possible next spring to disturb their overwintering because those bugs are winning again this year! UGH!!

  12. I am with you in my hatred of squash bugs/vine borers! I’ve considered myself lucky when I get a few squash. What’s odd is that my neighbor across the street has no problems at all.

    I tried digging them out of the vine and keep meaning to get a handle on physically blocking them at just the right time in their lifecycle. I wonder if we’re dealing with different evil critters — mine are worms that tunnel through the vine. Here’s what my state extension suggests:

    A second planting of summer squash made in early July will mature after adult borers have finished laying eggs.

    Promptly pull and destroy any plants killed by squash vine borers.

    You can physically exclude adult borers by placing floating row covers over your vine crops when they start to vine (or for non-vining varieties, starting late June or early July) or when you first detect squash vine borer adults. Keep the barriers in place for about two weeks after the first adult borer has been seen. Be sure the row covers are securely anchored to prevent adults from moving underneath it.

    Don’t use row covers if cucurbits were planted in the same area the previous year. This is because squash vine borers overwinter in the soil near their host plants. When the adults emerge the following summer, they may end being trapped under the row cover instead of being kept out. Practice rotation to minimize this issue by planting cucurbits in different areas of your garden (if possible) or alternate seasons when you grow cucurbits.

    Caution: Generally do not use floating row covers anytime crops are flowering. This prevents bees from pollinating your vegetables which will have a negative impact on plants. An exception to this would be if you pollinate your crops by hand while the floating row cover is erected.

    Good luck — it is maddening, isn’t it??

  13. Yavonna B says:

    Very Good Thanks

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