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Connecticut Garden Journal: Squash Pests

squash vine borer damage_dhasley_Flickr.jpg
Flickr / Creative Commons
Squash vine borer

Our zucchini and summer squash are cranking out fruits everyday now. The winter squash and melons are vining and life is good in the vegetable garden. But, this false sense of security won't last long. Unless you're diligent, squash pests, such as squash borers and bugs, will attack without any advanced notice.

You'll know you have squash vine borers by the the vine suddenly wilting mid day, even if the soil is moist. Check at the crown of the squash plant. You'll probably see tunneling and frass right near the soil line. That's from the squash vine borer larvae that tunnels into the stem causing it to wilt and eventually die. To control this caterpillar, with a sharp knife slit along the stem until you find the larvae and remove it. Bury the slit stem in soil and hopefully it will reroot. To prevent these attacks in the future, grow butternut squash, which vine borers don't like, or cover the squash plants with a row cover to prevent the adult fly from laying eggs. Remove the cover when flowering for pollination.

Squash bugs start as small grey insects running around the leaves. They quickly can attack, leaves, flowers and fruits if left unchecked. Start by checking the undersides of melon, zucchini and winter squash leaves looking for copper colored eggs laid in groups between the leaf veins. Squish or cut they out and destroy them. If you check every few days you'll keep the population under control. If not, you can try organic sprays, but squash bugs will be hard to stop once their numbers swell.