We are pleased to offer a guest blog by Theresa Martz, an expert gardener from Virginia. I enjoyed this squash bug post on her blog, Tending My Garden, and she has agreed to let us share it with our Clarington fans. You can find additional information on Theresa and her blog below. --Emma

Squash Bugs: End of Season Strategy

 If you’ve raised squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, or any variety of melon (all called cucurbits) then more than likely you’ve had problems with squash bugs.If you don’t know what a squash bug is ——then you live in a section of the country that’s not bothered by them. But here in Virginia they’re the arch enemy of many a gardener.

Preferred Plants:

Pumpkin and squash are the preferred plants of squash bugs. But they’ll readily move to cucumbers and melons when their favorites aren’t available. One of the favorite foods of the squash bug is summer squash.

Tough Bugs:

Gardeners who use poisons on their gardens are not free from being troubled by the squash bug either. Squash bug eggs are impervious to insecticides and the adult squash bugs have thickened outer layers that protect most of them from falling prey to poisons.

Damage to Plants:

They damage plants by piercing and sucking sap from the leaves, stems and fruits. Leaves yellow, dry, turn brown and then die. The inexperienced gardener might think these symptoms are a result of drought when actually it’s squash bug damage. If damage continues the entire plant will wilt and die.

Up to 250 eggs per bug:

A female adult squash bug can lay 250 eggs over a long period of time. She can hibernate through the winter in the top 6 inches of the soil. When temperatures are right the following spring she can emerge and continue egg laying without having to mate again!

An Important Control Tactic:

You need more than one tactic in your arsenal of strategies to control these pest. One of your most important tactics for squash bug control is to prevent their overwintering in your garden. Whether it’s early summer or late summer, here’s what I do when any cucurbits in my garden have finished producing:

• Before removing the plants from the garden, I want to kill as many squash bugs as possible. I pull the plants up and leave them — along with any damaged fruits —in a pile on the garden bed. Since squash bugs have a tendency to stay with the vines even after they wilt and reduce in mass, I’m able to check every day for more adults and nymphs – killing all I find.

• I also look for eggs and remove those. (I tear them off, take them with me, and throw them in the trash. They’re next to impossible to crush. So I take no chances of having them hatch anywhere in my yard or garden.)

• Usually it takes about a week before I can’t find anymore bugs. Then I remove the plants and any damaged fruits from the garden. When you remove plants from the garden without following the above procedure, you miss killing a lot of squash bugs even after a diligent search. (They’re experts at hiding.) Remaining in the garden, they’re free to search out and destroy any other cucurbits you have growing in your garden.

In late summer when mating slows or ceases they’ll continue to eat, storing fat in their bodies that’s necessary to take them through the winter.

Bottom Line:

By killing as many as you can and removing the food source (the finished plants) from the garden you greatly reduce their chances to make it through the winter. Lowering the numbers that survive is your first step in keeping the prolific squash bug under control.

About the Author:
Theresa Martz has been organic gardening in Virginia for more than 33 years. She knows how to get great rewards without a lot of hassle. Over the years she's learned what is really needed and what is hype in gardening. She shares that knowledge with you in easy-to-read posts on her website TendingMyGarden.com.

Posted in Guest Posts By Emma Kelly on 13th October 2011

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