How to Get Rid of Squash Bugs
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Do you want to get rid of squash bugs as much as I do? In our children’s garden, we hardly ever grow even a single squash. Here’s what I’ve learned in my gardening for beginners about how to kill squash bugs or at least control squash bug populations!
Squash bug spray
I have heard 100 tales of how to get rid of squash bugs, and I have tried all of them but one. Rotate crops, intercrop, handpicking, use Seven, even that doesn’t work!
I have not tried it but a friend of mine used it 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 get rid of squash bugs.
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.
Then the beetle bugs start. They are truly not squash beetles, but squash bugs, but if you have anything left from the squash vine borers, next the squash bugs will come and start sucking the stems of your plants. So you can see why you’d want to get rid of squash bugs in your garden if you have them.
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 was told 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.
The best way to handpick them is to 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.
This cuts down the population quite a bit and doing it a couple of times a day can help. You’ll find the copper-colored eggs on the underside of leaves or at the stems. They come off fairly easily with the duct tape method, but sometimes it’s hard to get down in the crack between the veins. I just scrape them off with my fingernail in there. It’s difficult not to damage the leaf.
How to kill squash bugs
Another method to kill squash bugs with handpicking 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.
Prevent squash bugs
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.
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.
In addition, We did a method where you inter-plant your squash with white icicle radishes. So we had five different factors to check.
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.
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.
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.
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. If a seed gets too hot, it will kill the life inside of it and it won’t germinate.
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 drawback of DE is that you have to reapply when any moisture gets on it. Here, it’s so humid, that means every day.
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. And get in there early and often with your methods. You’re going to have to try more than one.
Recently, I’ve heard of an idea of mixing ash and garden lime and making a circle around each plant with it. We didn’t have any ash, so we tried just the lime along side of our plants being careful not to get any on the plants because it will burn.
The population is cut down drastically, so I think next year my ash and lime idea will be the method we choose. It worked better than anything we’ve ever tried! This is the kind of lime we tried.
Squash bug control
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! Many people have suggested neem oil, but it says right on the container that it harms bees, so I hate to use that.
One reader suggested using neem heavily before the plants flower. That way bees will not be coming to them. That is a good solution.
- If you have a problem with slugs, click here.
- If you have problems with grasshoppers and hornworms, click here.
- For natural weed control, click here.
How to grow:
- Hot peppers and sweet peppers
- Jerusalem artichokes
- Luffa sponges
- Sweet potatoes
- Brussel Sprouts
- Birdhouse gourds
More information on how to build raised beds, build a trellis for your plants, and basic gardening information you need is available here in these beginning gardening videos. Click here for more information. You can even download a tour of what types of beds we have in our preschool gardens for free.
Squash bugs don’t bite, but if mosquitos are bugging you, check out:
This way be a bit late, but I had a horrible time with these little hellions eating the vines of my Morning Glory and pumpkins. If you boil orange peels in water, let it cool, and spray everything, and I mean drench it, that really helped. It also deters Japanese beetles. I also took my little kitchen torch to the eggs on leaves and squashed the adults but that was just purely for my satisfaction and revenge for killing so many of my vines.
I love the burning idea! *Puts torch in amazon cart. Ha ha! THank you for the suggestions. I’m going to try it. Thank you for reading!
I had an older gentleman suggest 91% rubbing alcohol. Just spray the bugs. I haven’t got to try this yet but will be this year. It kinda makes since because the alcohol will kill bed bugs eggs. Worth a try for me so I hope it may be helpful to you as well. Apply carefully because I don’t know what it will do to the plant.
Interesting. It’s worth a try.
Make a netting device from the day you plant till harvest. Some people use u shaped wiring, doesn’t matter what it is net those plants. Spray the netting and the ground around the new plants with Dawn. Yes Dawn, it works amazingly well. As they grow spray the plants with the mixture, half Dawn, half water. Good luck, we did. Jeanne
We have used a mixture of Dawn and water and it works, but, needs to be reapplied frequently and directly on the bugs.
Great tip! Thank you!
Not sure if this will help or not. a chef and asked my exterminator about a home rememdy and he said that they hate rosemary. Have not tried it, but plan to. My daughter who 22yrs old it’s deathly scared of them I’m serious just about passes out when she sees one no joke!! Now that she is home from college I have started a plant indoors for cooking reasons along with my
other returning herbs and plan to plant more outside around in my flower and vegetable gardens. I live in northern Virginia and we have them year round inside and out. Hope this works.
I’ll sure try it. Thanks!
I have also heard that planting nasturtium is another deterrent. Squash bugs are so horrible here in Kansas. It is a very hard battle to win. Nasturtium is my next choice. I have also thought about not growing squash for a year and seeing if that will stop them. If it does maybe growing squashes every other year.
we stopped growing squash for the last two years and tried again this year and it was just as bad. 🙁 And we have nasturtiums all over our garden too. So frustrating! I hope you find a good solution for you!
I have never previously had any luck with squash due to the squash bugs. This year I planted a load of large marigolds in with my squash around the perimeter of the raised bed and I have so much spaghetti squash I can’t use it all. That said I found eggs and a small colony of bugs on a squash vine that was growing over the pathway in my garden. It makes me think the marigolds really deter the bugs as these eggs and bugs were as far from the marigolds as can be and still be in the garden.
Good tip, thank you for sharing it!
This may sound a bit odd – but it has worked for us for many years. We lay an old barn board (only about 1″ thick by 6″ wide – any board will work) on the ground next to our squash overnight. Then the next morning just before the sun comes up I go out with my handy-dandy little Dust Buster vacuum and suck all the suckers up off the board. They go in every night to stay warm. Then I usually throw them in our burn barrel and torch them. You could dump them into a bag and trash, or a jar and suck the air out of them.
We have been natural farming/gardening for over 30 years and there is no “natural” way to get rid of them forever…all we can do is slow them down or monitor their numbers. Even companion planting can help, but it wont stop them.
I love the board idea. THanks for sharing it!
Use 100% neem oil with a surfactant/classic dish soap, one to two times a week. It’s beneficial to the plants, helps build a waxy coating. Try to spray the bottom of leaves so they can absorb it.
Bees pollinate flowers, there is no reason why you cant get 30+ treatments in before the flowers start to bloom. With a little luck plants will be strong enough to hold their own.
That’s a great tip. I’m going to try it. Thank you!
Trombono squash. It quickly sends out runners that root as they go. The squash bugs still attack it, it just outruns them.
That’s a great tip, thanks!
The thing about chickens is how quickly they can decimate a garden. Mine will devour whole green plants in no time. So you are lucky they are just eating the squash bugs. It is a good idea at the end of the growing season to put your chickens into the garden to clear it for you. That said I know many who have trained ducks to both weed their gardens and eat bugs. Maybe your chickens are trained to this point.
That’s definitely a concern. I have also heard chickens won’t eat squash bugs, but usually not everything works the same for everyone.
Chickens! We had a problem with these bugs, and let our chickens into the garden area. No more bugs! Our chickens just attack the bugs and swallow in one gulp! Been doing it for about 4 years now and the eggs still taste fresh, no one gets sick, the chickens love them, and they only stay in the garden for about an hour or so a day, 5-7 days a week during spring and summer!
That’s awesome. Thank you for sharing.
Beneficial nematodes will eliminate the squash vine borers, and maybe the squash bugs. Buy them only if they are refigerated. Wet the soil slightly, then follow directions on the packaging to drench the soil where the squash are planted. Keep the soil moist, but not soaked.
The big growers use row cover, but many of them now use a hybrid squash that can tolerate being covered all season and still produce great squash, cucumbers, etc.
Thanks for the tip!
We had good luck sucking them up in our shop vac. Pretty easy.
Has anyone heard of BT?? My first garden……my zucchinis were getting murdered! After lots of internet info…..BT seems to be “safe”. I am currently removing the larvae (if I can find them) replanting the portion of the plant that is living, then injecting BT at the top of the stems and it is supposed to kill any lasting nasty borers that live in the stem.
I’ve heard of it for the borers. Great idea.
I burn them with a kitchen torch. They die so fast it doesn’t harm the plant. it’s the only thing I have found that works.
Great tip, thanks!
I used to use the tape method for the eggs but those darn things love to lay their eggs against the veins and it was tedious at times to get them all. Somewhere I came across the suggestion to use a lighter on them. Let me tell you that is a lot faster and satisfying burning them things to a crisp and the leaf is not really damaged beyond a little hole. I also use a spray bottle with soap and water on the rest. But what has helped the most was last year I had 30 chicks running in the garden for about a month and both the earwig and squash bug population was very manageable the rest of the summer. Good luck and I hope you find a solution that works well for you!
These suggestions are so great. Thank you! I would love to burn them all! Ha ha ha!
I have been fighting squash beetles forever and have tried just about everything. Typically we avoid chemicals but I was told to try Eight Garden spray or Dust and it worked so well on those pesky little buggers I will never quit using it. I had so many squash and zucchini last year I couldn’t even give them all away. I planted way more plants than needed because I figured we would lose at least half of them. Only lost one plant. My husband was talking squash to work in 5 gallon buckets. I get Eight at our local true value hardware. I have never found it at Lowe’s or Menards.
Thanks for the comment!
We put Indian running ducks in the garden last year! I had a great garden. I would turn the out when I noticed a bug! Leave them out for the majority of the day then pen them in the corner which I housed with an igloo feed and water. I lost a few plant due to them trampling when they got spooked… but they love.. squash bugs!!! Also this year… I’m companion gardening!! Have basil, cilantro, nasturtiums, radishes, chamomile, and many other bug steering plants scattered throughout my garden! I’ll let you know how it works!
What do you suppose commercial growers do? Store zucchini always looks great and they seem plentiful. Just curious…. I’m a try to be organic gardener and it is really work!
I’m sure they cover their crops with tons of sprays all throughout the season, but I’m not sure what and how much. It’s a good question. Thanks for asking.
You said picking them off and putting them in a bucket of soapy water helps to kill them instantly… just mix the same up in a squirt bottle. There are two mixtures you can use.
Dawn 6 drops + red pepper 1 tbsp (hot and spicy kind) to 1 gallon of water. Spray once a week
Dawn 1 tbsp + 1 cup cooking oil in 2 pints of water
Spray once a week
Im going to use Dawn plus water about every day because these little bastards are all over my garden as well. I’m about ready to let my chickens run free in hopes they eat them all!
That’s a great idea. I’m super allergic to dawn, so we don’t use it on anything, I wonder if our organic scent free dish soap would work? It does in the bucket. I’m going to try it!
Pinterest is amazing! There is so much info on there. Yes, you may have to weed through some articles… but the majority of info on there has been super helpful to us. I would try Gain or Palmolive. Let me know how that works! We are first time gardeners… planting in hay bales =0]… first time keeping chickens… and we’re getting our first set of miniature donkeys!
that is super cool!
Dawn is the best but most any dish soap will work. The problem is you must spray it on the bug for it to work. It will kill squash bugs within minutes. On the plant they will walk right over it with no results. I add Murphy Soap oil to my mixture, helps it stick. Squash bugs do not like water. Spray the base of the plants first, wait a minute and the bugs will come to the top leaves, then spray the bugs with the soapy water. They will die……….
Good tip, thanks!
Have you tried Neem oil? It’s a natural product and I use it on everything — apples, squash, tomatoes, peppers. Check out this article: http://homeguides.sfgate.com/neem-oil-effectiveness-squash-bugs-104209.html
Also, I got an atomizer sprayer, and although it’s kind of expensive, it really coats the entire plant with whatever you’re spraying. It works WAY better than pump sprayers, and now what took me hours before, only takes a few minutes. Check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33Q0uP4odh4
The only thing with Neem, like DE and other similar organic products is that it washes off with a good rain, so you need to keep reapplying, especially after rain storms.
Does neem oil harm bees? Thanks for the tips!
We keep bees and have never had a problem.
Thanks for the ideas! I’m along the premature state of mind for dealing with pests – if they’re there, is for a reason. It sounds like you’re planting a ton of squash together. Perhaps try inter-planting with other crop? I think the success you’ve seen with the radishes may support this…this year I’m growing radish with my lettuce; the radish leaves are totally shredded but the lettuce has gone untouched. Also, I’m not sure if you can order some, but it’s at least looking into how to attract ground beetles. They are natural predators of the squash bug and will happily help you in your endeavor! Pests live a mono-crop, though. It’s a buffet of all their favorites and they never have to leave to find anything else! I’m definitely going to order some of the kind of radish you’ve used and am getting ready to plant a nice, stinky, smelly herb garden next to my plot. Best wishes!
Yes, we have everything planted together intercropped. We don’t plant a ton of it together, we have it in different places with other plants. This is a good thought though and I will look into more intercropping. Thanks for the tips!
For adult squash bugs I soak/flood the base of each squash plant. Squash bugs are forced up and out to the top leaves and much easier to see and squish when you do this.
I do that too, and it works best in the morning for some reason. Thanks for reminding me and for reading!
Okay this is tedious but it worked. Last year the borer jerks got my squash in abundance. Besides removing the eggs you show (squash bugs) the borer bug eggs are smaller, darker and usually on the stem. I thought it was dirt at first. You can remove all day every day and you’ll still get those plant suckers. SO…what I did was cut the stems length wise on one side and remove the borer from the inside. It’s nasty…you’ve been warned. Once they were removed I buried the cut stem back into the dirt. My plants bounced back and I produced fruit after I did this. I went from half dead spaghetti and yellow squash plants to picking and eating several squash in the weeks after removal. It’s not ideal but it’s better than just having the plant die off.
Thanks for the tips on squash vine borers, I hate them too and have found success with this method. Good tip! It’s amazing they will stay alive when you cut the stem, but it works! Thank you for reading and for sharing!
Neem Oil? Or capsaicin.
I have tried capsaicin and it didn’t help at all, but someone else suggested neem oil. Do you know if it harms bees? Thanks for the suggestions!
No, neem oil does not harm bees.
Great, thank you!
I live in North Metro Atlanta. Last year we planted two squash plants in front of some okra in a raised bed. One one side dill and mint grew ( and grew and grew) and on the other side we grew rudbeckia Indian Summer with alyssum in front. It was the first year in 9 years that we did not have squash bugs. It was amazing. I am going to try it again this year.
That’s a great tip. So you grew, dill, mint and alyssum or is rudbeckia something additional to that? Thanks for reading!
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!
Good idea, i’d love to know how it works out! Thanks for reading.
I had better luck last year by planting late. Will do that again. Floating row covers help, also.
Planting late is a good idea. I have heard that before. Floating row covers is also something I’ve heard. How do you pollinate with those?
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.
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!
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!
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.
This is a great idea! I have also covered the stem as it grows with fresh dirt and it seems to root along the vine.
Great tip. Thanks for reading!
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.
I have heard that works, but i haven’t tried it, I can’t wait to hear how it turns out for you!
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. .
I have tried de, it helps, but doesn’t get them all. Boo!
Yes I used DE. I felt I had good success. And I tried not to get it on the flowers. I did something also that might have helped me in watching them. I tied (Zucchini) up on steaks. I put 2X2″ steaks, then tied them up. It was easy to see the eggs and I would just squash them. For the adults I used the DE. I had a fairly good crop.
Good tips, thank you!
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!
Isn’t that a great tip! Where does your pet turkey live? What fun!
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.
I did not know that about turkeys. How interesting. Thank you for the information!
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.
They are relentless aren’t they? My aunt said her chickens won’t even touch them. UGH!
Our chickens won’t even eat them. They are repulsive, not just to me, but my chickens apparently!
They sure are!
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.
Thanks, and thanks for checking it out! Those stinkers are annoying!
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!
Yes they are! :/ We do have marigolds planted throughout, that’s a good idea. Thanks!
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!!
It’s frustrating, isn’t it? I am planning to not plant any curcubits next year and see if that helps. I’ll starve them out!
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??
We have borers as well as the stink bugs. You are right about the borers, you can plant later to avoid them. I love all of these tips, thank you for sharing them!
Very Good Thanks