DeGARMO: The dreaded squash bug

In the Garden by John DeGarmo

John DeGarmo

John DeGarmo

The other day, I had a colleague of mine ask me some questions about his squash plant. After the first question, it was pretty easy to figure out what was hurting his plant. He had healthy looking squash on the top and outside of the plant, but underneath and inside the squash itself, severe damage had been done.

The dreaded squash bug had made its way to his house, and was wreaking havoc early in May.

One of the more popular vegetables to grow in middle Georgia, squash is extremely easy to grow. All it requires is sunlight, warm weather, and good soil. In fact, if you threw a discarded half-eaten squash into your compost pile, chances are there is a squash vine growing there right now. Yet, as easy is it to grow, it is just as easy to lose your vines and plants due to the Squash Bug's villainous attack upon your garden.

The squash bug, or the Anasa tristis, is common to gardens in our area. Though it is known to attack the plant it is named after, this feisty bug will also attack your cucumbers and pumpkins. It is an unusual looking insect, with its hard gray shell, and flat, angular shape. It has two large antennae protruding from its 5/8-inch-long frame. As this past winter was a warm one, there will be a large number of bugs this spring and summer in your garden. This number will most likely be bigger than years previous, as they overwinter in sheltered places escaping the freezing temperatures.

Since we had very little of that, an invasion is forthcoming!

Squash bugs will attack your plants in search of food. The insect will suck the sap out of the vines and leaves, causing the plant to turn yellow, then brown. In their quest to find nutrients in your squash and other vine vegetables, they will cause your plant to wilt and then die.

There are a few steps you can implement in order to halt the destructive path of this mighty creature. First, you can start by ensuring that your plants are healthy and vigorous, getting plenty of sunlight, fertilization, water, and good soil. Make sure any debris, such as old plant materials, vines, or even rotting wood, is removed, as the bug will lay eggs among these.

If you spot the bugs on your vines, knock them off into a bucket of soapy water, or spray with an organic insecticide. If you choose to spray, do so at night, when the bugs are still for the evening, allowing you a better chance at getting them. This will also prevent you from hurting the beneficial insects in your garden, such as bees, lady bugs, and other wild life.

Squash, cucumber, and even pumpkins are all easy and fun to grow in your garden. The rewards are many, and the enjoyment is even greater. With a few preventative steps, you will soon be growing a bumper crop this summer. Enjoy.