How to Get Rid of Squash Bugs

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 all of them but 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 in home gardens

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

How to Get Rid of Squash Bugs

After the borers come, then come the squash bugs to destroy whatever is left. 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.

How to Get Rid of Squash Bugs

How to save your squash from bugs

The best way to hand pick 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.



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.

DSCN7748

Squash bugs, organic control 

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.

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.

DSCN8374

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.

DSCN8434

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.

DSCN8377

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.

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.

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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. 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. The best way to cut them down as much as possible is to try as many methods as possible. Do them early and do them OFTEN!

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! 

Edited: Several readers suggested neem oil and pyrethrins as a way to kill squash bugs. I was told neem oil was not harmful to bees. When I got my bottle, in huge lettering it says, will harm bees. So it was discouraging to find out that both of these chemicals will, in fact, harm beneficials as well as non beneficials. 

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How to Get Rid of Squash Bugs

 

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71 comments

  1. erin says:

    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.

  2. Natalie says:

    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.

  3. Rajena says:

    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!

  4. Lauri says:

    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.

  5. Deb Morlock says:

    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!

  6. S Seely says:

    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!

  7. Katt says:

    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!

      • Katt says:

        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!

      • Buttons says:

        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……….

  8. Anthony says:

    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.

  9. Whitney says:

    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!

  10. Niki says:

    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.

  11. Tammy says:

    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.

  12. J Hicks says:

    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.

  13. 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!

  14. Julie Taber says:

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

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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. .

  18. 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!

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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!

  23. 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!!

  24. 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??

  25. Yavonna B says:

    Very Good Thanks

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