I can’t believe they’re out already!
Although… according to my garden journals they’re right on time. Drat.
Late May to early June is typically when we start seeing squash bugs and their eggs on our squash plants here in the southeast.
It’s important to stay on top of them, otherwise they’ll suck the life right out of your plants.
I was out in the garden today, flipping over my squash leaves looking for those unmistakable copper colored eggs, when I upturned a female squash bug right in the middle of laying a fresh batch.
Ha! Caught ya red handed.
Let’s just say she didn’t live long enough to lay another egg.
Of course once I found a live one I had to go back over all of my other squash and zucchini plants, just to make doubly sure there weren’t any more bugs. Low and behold, I found another one hiding underneath a yellow summer squash plant, with another fresh batch of eggs.
Not today, buddy.
Since spring is prime time for squash bug infestations, I thought it might be helpful if I share with you all some tidbits I’ve learned on how to protect your squash plants from being destroyed.
Because, believe me, I’ve lost my fair share of crops to these critters.
6 Ways To Control Squash Bugs Naturally!
#1. Flip squash, zucchini, and pumpkin leaves daily for a thorough inspection.
Squash bugs lay their eggs on the undersides of the leaves of squashes and pumpkins. The eggs are tiny, copper colored ovals and are usually found in a cluster, although I have found individual eggs here and there.
I’ve read that squash bugs will sometimes get on cucumber and melon plants. I don’t recall ever finding them there personally, but I still look just to be safe.
Squash bugs are most active in the mornings and evenings. They can hide in the mulch at the base of the plant, so keep a keen eye out for them there.
It’s important that you flip over every single leaf and look them over thoroughly. Squash bugs like to hide their eggs right up against a vein in the leaf and they can be hard to spot if you’re just quickly glancing.
Keep looking for eggs and bugs through the summer until your plants are done producing.
#2. Kill squash bugs and their eggs immediately.
I’m gonna give you organic methods, ’cause there’s really no need to use toxic chemicals when squash bugs can easily be controlled by hand.
I usually squish an adult bug between two rocks or whatever I can get my hands on quickly. They will scurry away and hide in the mulch around your plant if you take your eye off them, so don’t lollygag around!
If you’re squeamish about squishing bugs, carry a container of soapy water with you when you do your daily bug hunt. If you find one, drop it into the soapy water instead.
The eggs are easy to scrape off the leaf. I use my fingernail to remove them and then I squish the eggs between my fingers or on a rock or something.
If the eggs have already hatched and you find a ton of baby squash bugs crawling all over the underside of your plant, OR if you’d rather not squish the eggs, there’s a quick and easy method that I like to use to remove large numbers at once.
Take a piece of duct tape or packaging tape, and wrap it sticky-side out around your fingers. Press the sticky surface against the underside of the infested leaf and the squash bug babies will come off easily without damaging your plant.
#3. Don’t plant your squashes close together, if you can help it.
If they go undetected for any length of time, squash bugs will go from squash plant to squash plant, laying their eggs like there’s no tomorrow.
This is one reason why I no longer plant a huge bed of squashes in the garden. Too much foliage growing closely together becomes a nightmare to try to monitor for pest issues.
Instead, I plant just a few squashes in random raised beds so that there’s quite some distance between them. I might have three or four zucchini in one bed, one or two squash across the yard in another bed, etc.
The bugs have further to travel between plants and hopefully the birds I’m encouraging in our yard will help pick them off.
It’s also helpful to have the plants separated so that you can easily look under every single leaf for eggs before they hatch and turn into a real problem.
This method of separation will also reduce your chances of losing an entire crop of squashes to squash vine borers, by the way.
#4. Encourage beneficial predators in your garden.
I was excited to learn that praying mantises are predators to squash bugs. Remember the praying mantis eggs we found in early March? Here’s hoping those babies go to work in our garden this year!
The Tachinid fly is also said to be a predator of squash bugs. They’re attracted to carrots and Queen Anne’s Lace (which are actually wild carrots), so if you plant them near your squashes they may attract these beneficial flies.
#5. Plant more than you think you need!
If all else fails, it helps if you’ve planned for worse case and planted more squashes than you think you’ll need. If you end up with an abundance, you can dehydrate, freeze, or pickle the extras. Or of course you can always give them away to your non-gardener friends!
#6. Try companion planting.
Some people have reported having good results at repelling squash bugs by planting certain other plants nearby. Nasturtium, catnip, dill, peppermint, petunias, spearmint, and tansy are the most recommended for this purpose.
A few notes on these companion plants from personal observation:
- Nasturtium usually isn’t blooming yet by the time squash bugs come out. These flowers may help later in the season, but they won’t do any good in early spring when the bugs are emerging and in full egg-laying mode.
- Catnip is a perennial, and you don’t want to plant your squashes in the same place every year, so you may need to pot it up and move it to wherever you’re growing squash in the garden.
- Peppermint and spearmint will take over your entire garden if you plant them directly in the ground near your squash plants. Make sure to keep them in pots!
I’m sure there are other things you can do to control squash bugs in the garden naturally. I’d love to hear what you’ve found to work for you!