Ahh, squash bugs. They seem to have overstayed their welcome this season and are beginning to create quite a problem for us. Last season we had tremendous success with our summer squash crops. We were harvesting every day and leaving the fields with overflowing bins of costa romanesco zucchini and crookneck squash. This seasontells a different tale, one of cool damp springs, and harsh beginnings. Unfortunately, getting the seedlings into the ground later than expected, and the weather they endured early on in their adolescencetook a toll on these crops. We are seeing many squash bugs, and few squashesfully maturing.It is unfortunate, however, itis a great learning opportunity, and we can only get improve from here!
How to Identify: The squash bug is fairlylarge(over ½-inch long) with a brownish or gray body and flat back. The edges and undersides of the abdomenhave orange stripes.They are able to fly, but they often simply walk around on plants. Young squash bugs or squash bug nymphs, are gray and have black legs.They move quickly and often in groups on the undersides of leaves.
Affected Plants:Squash bugs are most commonly found on squash plants (hence the name)such as zucchini, winter squash, and pumpkin, but they may also affect other crops in the cucurbit family (like cucumbers, cantaloupe, and watermelon).
Visual Affect on Plants: These bugs inject a toxin into the plant and suck the sap right out of it with their sharp, sucking mouthparts. This causesyellow spots that eventually turn brown. The leaves will wilt because the damageprevents the flow of nutrients to the leaves, and then they will dry up and turn black, crisp, and brittle. The leaves also sometimes have ragged holes.Smaller plants will die, and squash bugfeeding can decimate young fruit.
***Important note:Squash bugs are often mistaken for stink bugs, as they are similar in appearance and both have a foul odor when squashed. However, stink bugs are wider and rounder than squash bugs.
Possible Prevention Solutions: 1)Early detection is critical! You want to catch squash bugs before theygrow into adults or they are verydifficult to get rid of completely. 2)Using a butter knife scrape egg masses off the plants and letthem fall onto the ground, where beetles will eatthem. Eggs hatch in about ten days, so be sure to check for them on at least a weekly basis. 3)Keepchecking your plants, at least daily. If there are no more than a few vines infected, keepcollecting and destroying the bugs and crushing the egg clusters that you find on the undersides of leaves. 4) In the fall, be sure to burn or compost old squash vines to rid your garden of any possible shelters for breeding and over-wintering. 5) Avoid deep, cool mulches like straw or hay that provide an environment that these bugs seem to love.