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How To Protect Squash Plants From The Squash Bug

Tony Teolis

Joined: Jun 13, 2012
Posts: 27
I have been growing squash for the past three years because my family and I love to eat it. My neighbors love squash just as much as we do and it's nice when we can bring a smile to their faces. However, the previous two seasons brought surprise and dismay as I had learned too late that my squash plants were under attack and doomed for the most part. Herculean effort was required to save 50% of the crop in 2011. I tried to keep a better eye out for symptoms of a squash vine borer invasion last year but again I was too late. I was looking for wilted, brown leaves as an indication of the squash larvae eating the plants from the inside out and I should have know better than to wait until then.

In 2011 I had to pull five of ten plants and the one that remained were sprayed with neem oil and recovered with soil. I got some more squash that year but not as much as I could have. In 2012 I was able to save the plants earlier but still lost some productive growth and even a plant or two. This year I am determined to do better.

defending agaisnt squash bugs
It's only June 1 but the gardens are alive and blooming and a close look at the stems of my 5 squash plants showed their vulnerability to the vine borer. It seems that the stems had been chewed on or stretched which is an invitation for the vine borer to lay eggs that will then have easy access to the stem core. I found this evident in all the plants but the one depicted in the video was the worst.

My fix this year is based on a few years of experience and some well know tactic found on the Web. I first covered up the chewed out areas with neem oil. I like neem oil because it confuses bugs and sets their insticnt controls into a spin. They basically forget what to do when the come in contact with neem oil. You will see sow bugs (Porcellio scaber) in the video near the chewed stem and they are probably feeding on the dead plant matter near the stem of the squash. Neem oil helps to protect plantsand form a protective coating around injured areas. I have been using neem oil for three years and found it to be the best natural way for restoring leafy greenness and pest control to plants. I don't use it often or in great quantities because of the honey bees in my back yard. It is supposed to be harmless to bees but I take no chances.

After I drizzled a little neem oil on the injured area I covered it with a Telfa non adhesive pad like a band aid. I then wrapped the stem as carefully as I could with aluminum foil. The foil seems to disorient the moths that lay the eggs near the plant stems. It is a nice hard layer of protection that does not bother the plant at all and if monitored carefully for additional layering will prevent the squash but invasion.

I will also try to get some butternut squash starts and see how they do as their stems are much narrower and not as inviting to the vine borer. However, we just can't get enough of the yellow summer squash and they taste so great grilled, drizzling with butter and sprinkled with salt. Better than corn I think. I guess the point is that if you love something you have to work to keep it well. So true. Tony Teolis
Amedean Messan

Joined: Nov 11, 2010
Posts: 925
Location: Melbourne FL, USA - Pine and Palmetto Flatland, Sandy and Acidic
Hmmm, this year I am experimenting with growing my zucchini upside down in a bucket. My theory is that the boring worm instinctively travels towards the root or they at least fall onto the root system so planting the zucchini upside down may confuse the system. My area is badly infested with these pests but I was planing on showcasing my progress if any when the season is over with pictures. I will not be using any supplements of any kind because it is laborious.

Those who hammer their swords into plows will plow for those who don't!
Rion Mather

Joined: May 31, 2012
Posts: 644
I have already started my various squash in buckets. I lost almost all of my plants to borers last year. I read somewhere that buckets worked. Guess I will find out.
John Polk

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6895
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
The Squash Vine Borer lays its eggs on the lower stems in late spring/early summer (depending on your climate). When they hatch, they enter the stem where they are born.

If you use a brush - stiff enough to dislodge the eggs, but not so stiff as to damage the still tender stems - you can often disrupt their cycle enough to still get a good crop.

Another method that works well is to cover the plants with either floating row cover or screen. Keep the covers on until the female flowers appear (about a week or two after the male flowers). This will prevent the moth from laying her eggs until it is too late for them to do significant damage.

A third method - if your climate permits - is to delay your planting. If you don't have squash plants in the ground when they are flying around looking for a 'nest', they will go elsewhere.

As an alternative, look for varieties with hard stems. They are much less prone to attack.
Avoid species of Cucurbita pepo, as they are the most susceptible.
Leila Rich

Joined: May 24, 2010
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
John Polk wrote:As an alternative, look for varieties with hard stems. They are much less prone to attack.
Avoid species of Cucurbita pepo, as they are the most susceptible.

I'm blessed to not have these guys here, but to further John's recommendations, Moschata is apparently the species to go with.
While that cuts out the standard summer squash, zucchini rampicante can be eaten young, or left to get big and harden for winter storage.
They are extremely cool-looking fruit, like mad brass instruments!
Be aware that the vines a rampant and like to climb; both points in its favour from my perspective, but this isn't a plant for a small spot...
I agree. Here's the link:
subject: How To Protect Squash Plants From The Squash Bug