How To: Get Rid of Squash Bugs
Protect your cucumbers, pumpkins, squash, and other gourds from squash bugs with these simple tips for removal and prevention.
If you pride yourself in growing your own pumpkin—or cucumbers, squash, and other gourds—then you might be familiar with this particular pesky garden nemesis. Tiny, flat, and brownish-gray in color, squash bugs take root on the underside of leaves or near the crown of the plant where they’ll lay clusters of oval-shaped, copper-brown eggs. Their appearance, half-inch size, even the unpleasant odor emitted when squished cause many homeowners mistake them for stink bugs—but these pests are their own evil entity. Squash bugs inject toxins into plants and suck moisture out of the leaves, causing them to wilt, blacken, dry up, and turn brittle.
If you spot squash bugs or their eggs on your gourds, act quickly to prevent a full-blown infestation. Mature bugs can be difficult to kill, but with a bit of diligence, homeowners can protect their prized pumpkins and savory squash from damage. Here’s how to get rid of squash bugs and keep them from harming your harvest in the future.
STEP 1: REMOVAL
If you discover squash bugs your garden, follow one of these three methods to get rid of them.
Scrape off the eggs. Remember: Squash bugs lay eggs in clusters on the undersides of leaves and at the crown of the plants, so be on the lookout. If you spot them, scrape them off using a butter knife and dispose of them in the trash can. Squash bug eggs hatch about every 10 days, so you need to check the plants weekly for new batches. Otherwise, you may instead discover a new generation of destructive troops in your garden.
Pick and flick adult bugs. If you find a handful of squash bugs on your plants, simply pick them off by gloved hand and flick them into a container of soapy water. The pests will get trapped and drown, ensuring that your harvest will remain undamaged throughout the season. Repeat this process every few days until all squash bugs are eliminated.
Set a nighttime trap. Squash bugs tend to gather on the underside of logs or wooden boards at night, so set some bait to catch them all at once. Place a shingle or a board in the garden during the evening, and check underneath it for squash bugs in the morning. If you’ve attracted any bugs, immediately place the board or shingle onto a hard surface and step on it, smashing the bugs underneath. You’ll need to do this daily until you don’t see any more squash bugs on your plants.
STEP 2: PREVENTION
After following the methods listed above for how to get rid of squash bugs, homeowners can take several precautions to prevent their return. Keep reading for three ways to deter squash bugs from your pumpkins, squash, and other gourds.
Lay row covers over plants. Keep the insects away from your plants by covering them with floating row cover material (available from a nursery) or a lightweight landscaping fabric (available at home improvement stores) in early spring. Secure the edges of the fabric with dirt, bricks, rocks, or other heavy objects. If you’re working with taller plants, lay the row covers over hoops (available from a grower’s supply or home improvement store) set three to five feet apart. The spun fibers of row covers let in water, air, and light, but inspects like squash bugs can’t penetrate the surface. Leave the covers on for about one month, and uncover the plants when they start to blossom.
Plant resistant varieties of squash. Some types of squash—like butternut, royal acorn, and early summer crookneck—tend to resist squash bugs. If your garden has a history of infestation, stick with these varieties of squash.
Make your garden inhospitable for overwintering. Squash bugs can overwinter in many areas of your landscape, like in squash vines and mulch. Prevent the pests from finding shelter by making your garden inhospitable to them. Clear all squash vines at the end of the season, either by burning them or disposing of them in garden bags picked up by your municipality. Also, avoid putting mulch or straw around the base of your plants.