Believe it or not, fall is one of the best times to stop the dreaded squash bug from overtaking your garden!
Squash bugs can really do a number on vegetable plants in the garden. And although they injure and kill crops all throughout the early spring and summer, they seem to multiply in droves as autumn settles in.
Sadly, for many who love to grow squash, pumpkins and gourds, it couldn’t come at a worse time. Just as these fall bearing plants should be readying for harvest, squash bugs can decimate the plants. And once the tell-tale signs of damage occur, it’s often too late to help a plant survive.
Squash Bug Damage – How To Stop Squash Bugs
Squash bugs and their young (known as nymphs), wreak havoc on vegetable plants. Especially plants with sap-filled vines such as cucumbers, zucchini, squash, pumpkins and gourds.
Often confused for a stink bug, squash bugs are far more deadly to a vegetable garden. Once on a plant, they feed by biting into the vine and dining on the sap.
If that wasn’t enough, while they eat, they inject a toxin into the vine. And that toxin begins to work its way through the plant. As it does, the plant begins to lose vigor and color.
In fact, one of the very first signs that your plants may have been infected by squash bugs is a yellowing of its leaves. Then, as the damage progresses, the leaves begin to brown off and die. And slowly, the plant does as well.
It can devastate a plant quickly, and for that matter, an entire crop. And that is exactly why it is critical that once you notice a squash bug issue to take action fast.
Why Fall Is The Perfect Time To Stop Squash Bugs
By early autumn, squash bugs can become quite numerous and prolific in numbers. But by attacking the problem in the fall, you can keep a large population of squash bugs from overwintering. This, of course, helps to lessen the chances of an even larger problem next year.
Eliminating squash bugs in the fall centers around a three prong approach. The first is treating any existing plants that are currently under attack.
In the early to mid-autumn, that usually means pumpkin, squash and late season cucumber plants. If there are just a few meandering around plants, hand picking will usually suffice.
But if you have large numbers showing up, a more aggressive approach is needed. And the best way to stop squash bugs in their tracks quickly and naturally is with a double dose of neem oil and diatomaceous earth.
#1 Using Neem Oil & Diatomaceous Earth – How To Stop Squash Bugs
If you have a severe infestation of squash bugs in the fall, both neem oil and diatomaceous earth can help to get control of the situation. The good thing is both are 100 percent organic solutions.
Neem oil is made from the seeds of a neem tree, and spraying the oil on the foliage of infected plants will work to kill adult squash bugs, as well as young nymphs and eggs.
Dichotomous earth is made from the fossils of ancient marine life. As a powder, it can be sprinkled on both the plants and the ground around infected plants to help control squash bugs, especially when it comes to the eggs and young nymphs.
The next step to elimination is getting those old plants out of your garden!
#2 Clearing Debris From The Garden
One of the biggest keys of all to keeping squash bugs from becoming an ongoing issue is to clear your garden at the end of the season of all decaying vegetable foliage. Especially when it comes to curcurbit plants such as cucumbers, pumpkins and squash.
Allowing vegetable plants to remain in the garden past their prime is asking for trouble. Pests and disease are easy prey for failing plants. They not only feed on the foliage, but use it for cover and protection.
The female squash bug actually overwinters in the garden, coming back to lay her eggs in the spring. And by leaving plants in the garden, you give her the perfect opportunity to breed the next generation.
Remove Plants As They Fade
The sooner you remove plants past their prime, the better. Most vegetable plants can be taken directly to the compost pile. But if any of your plants have become infested, it is best to leave them out.
Most home compost piles do not get hot enough to kill squash bugs or their eggs. That means placing them in your compost pile can actually help them increase their population for the following year.
Instead, burn or discard any infected foliage. If allowed in your area, burning the decaying foliage will instantly kill off both adults and eggs. If discarding, wrap tightly and place in your communities yard waste pick-up. Commercial facilities thankfully can heat their compost piles up to effectively kill off pests and disease.
#3 Plan For Next Year – How To Stop Squash Bugs In The Fall
The third and final step to help eliminate squash bugs for good is the easiest of all. This fall, be sure to take a few pictures or jot down a few notes as to where your squash bugs and the plants they love (the curcurbit family) were planted.
Why is this so important? Because you want to be sure to plant these plants in a new location next year. As with any garden pest, crop rotation is a vital and important strategy to keep squash bugs at bay. See : Why Having A Garden Journal Is Important
By moving crops to a new location from year to year, the eggs, larva and adults are unable to “set up shop” and infest the same area with the plants they love.
Moving all of your crops to new locations within your garden each season is actually a huge aid in the battle against all insects! And why make a note of what you planted this fall? Because as all gardeners know, by next spring, it will all be a blur!
Here is to eliminating squash bugs this fall, and to a pest-free garden next spring and summer!
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