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Garden Insect Pests: Squash Bug

Anas Tristis

Squash bugs are commonly found all over the United States. They feed on members of the Cucurbit family. This includes all kinds of squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, and watermelon. Among these, their favorite foods are yellow crookneck and yellow straight-neck squash, followed by pumpkins and Hubbard squash..

Squash bugs are very harmful to cucurbits. They suck the juices from the plants. They will also attack the fruit, If damage is significant, the vines turn black and die. Squash bugs also transmit plant disease. Disease spores cling to their feet. Diseases are spread, as the squash bug flies from plant to to plant.


Identifying Squash Bugs:

Adult Squash Bugs are approximately 5/8" long and 1/4" wide. They are dark grey or black. There are orange and brown stripes on their abdomen. They are sometimes mistaken for stink bugs, which look similar. Like the stink bug, squash bugs will also smell bad when crushed.

Note: Stink bugs do not bother cucurbits.

Squash Bug Eggs are yellowish brown to red bronze in color. The female deposits about a dozen eggs on the underside of plant leaves, along the veins of the leaves. Except for some southerly areas of the country, there is one brood a year.


Squash Bug Life Cycle: 

Squash bugs live one year. In most areas, the adult female lays eggs once, in early summer. Eggs hatch quickly, and small nymphs begin to feed on plant juices.  

Adult bugs will overwinter in brush and garden debris. They may be present in your compost pile.


Controlling Squash Bugs: 

Chemical sprays are most effective, when applied just as the eggs are hatching.

Many people, including this author,  hand-pick adults and eggs from the plants. Adults are easy to catch. Eggs will be found on the underside of leaves. Once you spot adult squash bugs, examine the leaves every few days for eggs. Scrape off eggs with a knife, or your fingernail, and dispose of them.   

An organic control, is to place a flat board near the plant. Squash bugs will hide under boards and garden debris at night. In early morning, lift up the board, capture and dispose of any bugs you find.


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