You can enjoy the best of your pumpkins, zucchinis, and other squash plants during the harvest season, but only if they are fresh and healthy.
I can guess what’s running through your mind right now. Why wouldn’t my fruits be healthy?
Well, the answer to this is as simple as a squash bug infestation. And for the fact that you’re reading this article, then I assume you’re experiencing one right now.
If that be the case, then you’re in luck, as I’ll be giving you vital tips on how to get rid of squash bugs its nymphs and prevent them from ever coming back to your garden.
All you have to do is read to the end!
What Is A Squash Bug?
Knowing the habits of a squash bug is the first step in knowing how to get rid of them. Many people confuse squash bugs with stink bugs due to their similar looks and the bad odor they both produce when squashed, but they are quite different.
Squash bugs like to feed on squash plants like pumpkins, zucchinis, watermelons, etc., and they can do serious damage to the leaves and the plants as a whole if they occur in large numbers.
Squash bugs can eat the foliage of grown squash trees, but they prefer young plants and seedlings, and their feeding habits cause them to wilt and die in no time. They aren’t as destructive in the late summer and fall but are always searching for food sources during other seasons.
Identifying a squash bug is a bit tricky, as I have already mentioned that they look similar to stink bugs, but you can tell the difference simply by taking a closer look.
Stink bugs are wider and more circular than squash bugs, so that you can use their body shape as a differentiating factor. Also, squash bugs love hiding on the underside of leaves, so you can also use that as a clue.
For what it’s worth, here are other means of identifying squash bugs below:
How To Identify A Squash Bug
The following are some of the things you can check to confirm if you’re dealing with a squash bug infestation or something else.
1. Their backs
An adult squash bug can be easily identified by its flat back. Theirs are not the same as the back of a stink bug, which is more oval.
The adult squash bug usually comes in dark brown color. However, some can develop a dark gray color. Reasons for the dark gray or dark brown variation in their color could be due to the kind of environment in which the squash bug eggs were laid and hatched.
Squash bugs aren’t particularly tiny, as adult bugs can grow over ½ an inch. This makes them large enough to be picked by hand.
4. Their edges
An adult squash bug is characterized by the orange stripes on the edges and undersides of its belly. This is probably the easiest way for you to identify them.
5. They don’t like flying
Most winged insects enjoy flying in search of food, water, and environments to lay their eggs. And while squash bugs have wings, they prefer to crawl along the stems of squash plants and the undersides of leaves.
6. Squash bug nymphs
Another way to identify a squash bug is by its larvae. Squash bug nymphs are mostly colored gray, but their stand-out feature is their black legs. Another characteristic of squash bug nymphs you should take note of is their love for the congregation. They are fond of gathering on the undersides of leaves.
7. Their wintering habits
Squash bugs don’t like extremely cold temperatures, so adult bugs find environments where they can hide during the winter season.
Squash bugs like to overwinter in vines, dead leaves, and under piles of dead tree stumps. These pests will practically spend the winter in any pile of rubbish they can find around your yard. They could even invade your home if they are short of options.
How to Get Rid Of Squash Bugs？
If you’re quick enough to identify a squash bug infestation in your yard, then count yourself lucky, as you can easily get rid of them. This is not to say you cannot remove a large squash bug population, because you can. It just means you’ll have more work on your hands.
Follow these tips to get rid of squash bugs.
Tip 1: Scrape away squash bug eggs
If you manage to identify one squash bug, then you can be sure there are more where that one came from. It could also mean they have started laying eggs under your squash tree leaves. And this is why that is the first place you should look.
If your suspicions are correct and you find squash bug eggs under the leaves, one of the best ways to remove them is to scrape them away.
Of course, you shouldn’t do this with your bare hands, as that would be too disgusting to bear, especially for those who are allergic to insects.
You can use a piece of hard cardboard paper to scrape squash bug eggs away. It is hard enough to dislodge them, but soft enough not to damage your squash plant leaves in the process.
It would help if you had a bowl of water beside you while you scrape so you can dump the eggs inside. We aren’t exactly sure if the soapy water will kill squash bug eggs, but we do know it will kill squash bug adults.
Nonetheless, dumping the eggs in a bowl of water makes it easy to toss the eggs away after you have scraped them all off.
Tip 2: Use a spray hose to dislodge them
Scraping off squash bug eggs could take you some time to finish, especially if there have been many eggs laid on the leaves of many trees. But a faster way to get them off is by spraying the eggs off from the leaves’ undersides with a water hose.
If your garden hose is long enough, then you can connect it to a water source and drag it to the infested trees. Turn on the water and aim at the leaves to wash nymphs and adults away. Adult squash bugs ensure their eggs are latched well onto the tree leaves, but they still won’t withstand the water pressure from the hose.
As we have already mentioned, adults lay their eggs on the undersides of leaves, so that area should be your primary target when spraying. As for the adult squash, bugs themselves can be around any other part of the tree, including the trunk, the branches, and the leaves.
You will need a visual aid to be sure that the areas you are spraying are indeed infested with squash bugs and nymphs. If not, then you’ll just be wasting your time.
I have to mention that spraying with a hose won’t kill squash bugs and their eggs, it will only knock them off your squash plants.
This means the eggs can still hatch and the nymphs can climb back up to eat your squash tree leaves. This method should be considered a temporary fix.
Tip 3: Handpick the bugs
Getting rid of adult squash bugs from your garden isn’t as hard as you think, and one of the most basic ways to do this is by handpicking them one by one. An adult squash bug can grow to over ½ in length, and this makes them large enough to be picked by hand.
All you have to do is identify the trees they have infested and prepare yourself for the task. You will need some items before you begin handpicking them. First a pair of gloves to keep your fingers from making direct contact with the bugs, and a bowl of soapy water.
To get an effective mix, pour some water into the bowl, then add some mild dish soap. Stir thoroughly to create a foam, then head out to your garden. Inspect the tree stems, trunk, and the leaves, then pick up as many bugs as you can find. Dump the ones you pick inside the bowl as you progress.
Soapy water can kill squash bugs and nymphs, so you won’t just be removing them. You’ll also be getting rid of them for good.
If the squash bug infestation is large, then you may have too many to deal with all by yourself, but this is where friends and family come in. If you have kids, you can get some fun out of the handpicking exercise by turning it into a game.
Prepare the soapy water solution in as many bowls as you need, then share it among the participants. Whoever picks the most squash bugs win!
Getting some extra help will help you get rid of the bugs faster than picking them all yourself. Be sure to warn anyone helping you pick the bugs not to squish them. Because just like stink bugs, they too produce a horrible smell when busted open.
Tip 4: Make a spray out of the soapy water
Let’s assume a bowl full of drowning squash bugs is too gross for you to bear, then I suggest you try another means of squash bug extermination, one that will not require picking but will still kill the pests.
Make the soapy water solution and pour it into a spray bottle, then apply generously across the undersides of the leaves of your squash plants and any other area of the garden where the squash bugs may be hiding.
The mild liquid soap in the solution is powerful enough to kill the bugs, but will not harm your plants. Another good thing about using this solution is that the effects of the spray will last for some time, even after the water has evaporated. And this can deter the bugs from coming back.
Prepare as many bottles of liquid dish soap solution as you see fit and apply generously around the leaves, under it, around the trunk, and across the braches of your plants. Soapy water can kill many pest insects, and squash bugs aren’t left out.
Tip 5: Make a neem oil solution
Most pest insects hate neem oil and will most likely stay away from environments laced with it. You can use this knowledge to your advantage in the fight against squash bugs.
To make the neem oil solution, pour some into a spray bottle and dilute with water. Shake thoroughly to get the best possible blend, then visit the trees where the bugs have infested.
Spray across the leaves of your squash plants, as well as the stems and trunk. The thicker the scent of the neem oil, the harder it becomes for the squash bugs to resist. This should repel squash bugs and ensure that they stay away to visit your garden at least once in two weeks with a fresh batch of spray and reapply over your plants.
The good thing about this method of removing squash bugs is that it can also keep other insect pests away from your garden. An extra tip here is to make the solution spicier, and you can do this by adding cayenne pepper into the mix.
Tip 6: Introduce natural predators
Another great way to kill squash bugs is by using natural predators against them. Thankfully, there are different types of these predators that will enjoy making a meal out of squash bugs. Some of which are certain bird species, lizards, and frogs
There are also beneficial insects that can eat the squash bugs around the leaf vines and other parts of your vegetable garden. You may be wondering how you can get these predators into your garden. Well, it’s quite simple. Some stores sell beneficial insects and other garden predators, so you can go there and get some lizards and frogs.
Get as many as you will need and set them loose into your garden. Nature will do the rest from there, as they will naturally go around in search of food.
They will eat as many squash bugs as they can find, which in turn will help you reduce the squash bug population in your yard.
You can also attract birds into your garden to help you remove the bugs. All you have to do is set a feeder, birdbath, or birdhouse in your garden to draw the birds’ attention. Ensure the side attractions are high enough for the birds to see but low enough for the birds to see the bugs.
Add just a little bird feed into the feeder, then scatter most of them on your garden floor. When the birds are done with the food in the feeder, they will go to the ground to pick up the ones scattered on the floor, and they will come in contact with the squash bugs in the process.
Birds always remember where they got their last meal from, so even if they don’t eat all the squash bugs in one visit, they will surely eat up more in subsequent visits. Birds flock too, so expect more than one to help you with the squash bug infestation. The more birds there are, the more squash bugs they will be able to eat.
Tip 7: Set squash bug traps
The funny thing about squash bugs is that they like gathering on top of cardboards, especially during the night. Whatever their reasons for doing this, you can use it to your advantage and set a small trap.
All you have to do is set cardboard (or as many cardboards as you will need) around the infested areas of your garden. Please do this at night when they like to congregate, and check back on the boards in the morning to check your catch.
You should expect to see a good number of them lazying around on the top of the boards, and that’s your chance to kill them. Just pick up the board, place each of your palms under each side of the board, then fold it until it closes. This will kill squash bugs instantly. Check the other cardboard traps you have set and do the same thing.
I have to warn you, though. As effective as this method of squash bug removal may be, crushing many squash bugs will mean releasing the foul smell that is stored in their bodies. You can protect yourself from this smell by using a nose mask.
Tip 8: Place covers over your squash plants
You have a squash bug infestation in your garden because it provides enough nutrition for the bugs. However, if they cannot find or access the squash plants in your garden, they will have to find another food source.
So how do you restrict their access to the squash plants in your garden? It’s simple. All you need to do is install covers over your squash plants.
In case you didn’t know, a row cover is a flexible transparent or semi-transparent material, which resembles plastic sheets or fabric, that can be used to guard plants against pest insects and wind. Herein, covers help protect your squash plants from bugs. The net in a row cover should be tightly woven, so even a pest the size of a squash bug cannot make its way through.
If you’ve never installed a row cover before, then I advise you to hire a skilled gardener to do that for you. If you must do it yourself, then ensure that all the areas of your plants are covered and that there are no openings.
Set the cover at least 2 inches deep into the ground so it sits firmly over your plants. This will also keep burrowing pest insects from digging their way from under the cover. The bugs will leave once they cannot access any food.
Tip 9: Plant resistant varieties of squash
Not all squash plants are prone to squash bug damage. Some varieties can resist their attacks. These include sweet cheese, butternut, and royal corn.
If you must have squash plants in your garden and don’t want bugs coming near them, then these are the varieties you should go for. Squash bugs find them unappealing, so they will go out in search of more favorable squash plants.
Tip 10: Make your yard unattractive to them
Squash bugs love to take cover and lay eggs under any form of debris they can find in your yard. These include rocks, dry leaves, and dead tree stumps. If these are present in your yard, you’ve given squash bugs reason to invade.
During the winter, the situation worsens as these pests need somewhere to hide to avoid the cold. Keep your yard free of junk at all times if you want to make it unattractive to squash bugs.
Once the winter season starts setting in, get your rake, put on your work boots, and begin cleaning up the junk. If there are no places for the bugs to hide, they will seek shelter elsewhere.
Hiring A Pest Control Professional
Let’s face it, not everyone would want to deal with insect pests themselves, and if you’re one of such people, then your best bet will be to hire a pest control service.
This is the more expensive option, being that they will charge you for their services. But if you’re dealing with a full blown infestation, then this is probably your best move.
What Will Kill Squash Bugs?
There are many ways to kill squash bugs, you can either squish them by hand or in a cardboard trap. Then again, chemical insecticides will also kill them. However, they shouldn’t be used if the bugs are around your squash plants, as the chemical content will also kill the plants.
Vinegar is one of the best substances to kill squash bugs with. The good news is, you probably have it at home already.
To make a vinegar solution, mix 1 part vinegar with 3 parts water. You can spike the solution with a few drops of mild dish soap for effective squash bug control.
Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and apply it across the infested plants. Once the solution makes contact with the bugs, it will behind to kill them slowly.
Will Dawn Dish Soap Kill Squash Bugs?
Yes, Dawn dish soap will nkill squash bugs, but it contains abrasive elements that can kill your plants too. It would be best if you forgot about using Dawn dish soap to control squash bugs in your garden.
However, if the bugs are hiding under dead and rotten tree stumps, piles of rock, and the likes, then you can use Dawn dish soap on them as your plants won’t be at any risk of being harmed.
If you’re going for a DIY insecticide, I recommend using an organic Castile liquid soap solution. This will kill squash bugs in your garden without harming your plants.
How To Prevent Squash Bugs From Coming Back
Preventing squash bugs from returning is just as important as keeping them out, as you wouldn’t want to deal with adult bugs more times than you have to.
There are many steps you can take to control the squash bug population in your home, and I’ll be discussing them below.
1. Remove their possible hiding places
One sure attraction for squash bugs in your home is dirt piles like dead leaves or rottonesing tree stumps. To deter squash bugs from returning, ensure that your yard is kept free of debris at all times, especially during the winter season.
You can gather compost piles and burn them, this will not only destroy their hiding environment, it will also kill any pests hiding inside
2. Don’t mulch too thick
While mulch is great for your zucchinis, cucumbers, and other squash plants, too much of it can attract the pests, since they can use it for overwintering. Be advised to mulch lightly, and don’t use straw or hay for mulch, as they provide good cover for the pests.
3. Cover your squash plants
We have already discussed how installing covers can effectively keep squash bugs away from your vegetation. Remember to use nets that are tightly woven, so that the bugs cannot squeeze through.
You can buy covers from a gardening store in your area. You can remove the covers when the blossoming season comes, so that pollination can take place. Since there is only one generation of squash bugs each year, you can prevent them from attacking your squashes by covering them during the very early month in the spring season.
An extra tip is to stall any planting of squash until the early summer season.
4. Try companion planting
Squash bugs can be repelled using companion planting. You can plant some tansy and nasturtium around the squash plants that the pests love to eat. You can plant them in such a way that it forms a fence around your main crops for best results.
5. Plant squash bug-resistant variables in your garden
Another means to control squash bugs in your garden is by choosing varieties of squash plants resistant to squash bugs. Among the recommended squash variables include Royal acorn squash, Butternut squash, and sweet cheese.
Squash bugs can be a real menace to any squash plant garden, as they damage the foliage of the crops and affect their overall health. Luckily, they are among the easiest garden pests to deal with, as they are not difficult to kill. But early detection is very important.
To recap, you can drown adult bugs in water or make a mild dish soap solution and spray directly on them. You can also use natural predators like birds, lizards, and frogs to control their population. Row covers will also prevent squash bugs from damaging your squash trees.
You can plant resistant varieties like butternut squash and acorn squash as alternatives. Ask a professional gardener to suggest other varieties that are resistant to squash. These resistant varieties should be planted around the prized plants in your garden for best results.
Don’t forget to keep your yard free of junk piles during the cold seasons, as they serve as perfect environments for the squash bugs to overwinter.
Last but not least, do not hesitate to call a pest control professional to disinfect your yard if the squash bug infestation has gotten out of hand. They will advise you on what can be done to repel squash bugs and reduce squash bug damage to your vegetable garden.
I trust this article on how to get rid of squash bugs has been helpful.