Jumat, 26 Juli 2013

Getting Rid of Bugs on Squash Plants

There is a bug that is very attracted to the squash plant and it is called the squash vine bug. It never ceases to amaze me that they find the squash plants no matter where you plant them in your garden. This year my squash are half an acre away from where I planted squash last year. It has probably been 3 years since I had squash in this bed. Last year and the year before there were no signs of the squash bug - yet this year, I have discovered numerous adult bugs on squash vines.
They are easily identifiable with their grayish black "shield" back.They overwinter in debris laying near the garden bed. Those that reach the adult stage before winter will survive through the winter. They become active when the weather turns warm in the spring and move to wherever there is squash germinating. They can migrate from quite far, so control of this bug is always ongoing.
By June they are laying eggs which are very unique, golden, oval shaped, very hard, just a bit larger than pin head sized eggs. They are typically laid in groupings on the underside of the squash leaf. If these eggs hatch and the nymphs survive, they will grow to adulthood, mate, and hatch out another generation of nymphs before the cold weather sets in. The nymphs that make it to adulthood will overwinter in debris left around the garden beds until the next season. So, it is a good idea to clean up your garden beds leaving them no where to hide.
Squash bugs are often the most destructive insect pest of winter squash and pumpkins. Both nymphs and adults attack the plants by sucking sap from the vines of the plants causing enough damage to prematurely kill the plant. To the unknowing gardener, the squash plant will look just fine one day, and the next day it will be wilted and obviously dying. Once it hits the wilt stage, bringing it back is doubtful.
Controlling squash bugs requires diligence and persistence. Make frequent inspections of your squash plants. I pretty much expect that they will be there sooner or later and I'm just looking to identify when they have settled in. Cold winters are helpful in destroying squash bug populations. Mulches will help them survive. Mulched squash plants harbor far more squash bugs than those planted in bare ground.
Diatomaceous Earth spread around the base of the plant will provide some control - especially for the new nymphs as their bodies are still soft and will be exposed to the diatomes. Sprays made with soap, oil, and water will penetrate the shell and offer some control. Pyrethrins and Pyola also offer good organic control.
Squash bug patrol is a good job for the young gardener. I often have the younger kids locate the bugs, then squash them between two rocks. Locating the eggs is another job the younger children can do. However, those eggs are hard to destroy as the shells are so hard and sprays are ineffective on them. What I have found effective is to take a small, stiff, artists paint brush and an ice cream bucket around. After finding a grouping of eggs, I set my bucket under the leaf and brush the eggs into the bucket. I'm pretty careful about what I do with that bucket too as those eggs can hatch anywhere. Most times I just put the lid on it and set it in the sun until the egg laying season is over, then I throw it away. I recently read a post where the gardener was vacuuming them up with a wet/dry vac. I thought that was very resourceful and somewhat hilarious. If you try that method you need to take care not to suck up the plants too.

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