Squash Bug Control: How to Identify, Prevent and Get Rid of Squash Bugs

Squash bugs, also known as Anasa tristis, is a true bug with a piercing mouth that primarily damages the leaves of its hosts. At its worst, the infestation does not only cause unsightly appearance on the parts where it feeds, but can also lead to a reduction of yield or even death of the plant. Because of the serious consequences of their presence, it is critical to be familiar about how to get rid of squash bugs.

The egg of squash bugs has a length of 1/16 inch, oval in shape, and has a yellowish-brown color. Within ten to 14 days, they hatch into a nymph and transforms to an adult. At this point, the average length is 1.6 centimeters. They have a flat back where they fold their wings. The wings overlap on each other, which makes it form an X shape. In terms of color, they are black, brown, or gray. One of their distinguishing physical characteristics is the presence of brown and orange stripes, which you can find in their lower body.

Brown Squash Bug

A Brown Squash Bug on a Leaf

Squash Bug’s Habitat

When they are in the form of eggs, they survive under the leaves of their host plant. They are in a group of up to 20 eggs and usually appear in the last weeks of spring to the first few weeks of summer. Within 14 days, the eggs will hatch. They transform into a nymph, and within six weeks, they will transition into full adults. Before they rich maturity, they hide under building foundations or plant debris. They usually appear in spring. They will fly from one plant to another to spread damage.

Identifying Squash Bug’s Damage

Plants Affected

As the name implies, these pests are common in squash and pumpkins. Among other varieties of squash, damages are most severe in Hubbard and yellow squash. It also affects other cucurbit plants, which include gourds, melons, and cucumbers.

Symptoms

Below are some of the most common indications that squash bugs are present:

  • The first part of the plant that they affect is the leaves. They will suck its sap, resulting in loss of nutrients. This causes the leaves to turn yellow and eventually, it will be brown. This is especially true if the plant is young. Those that are older, on the other hand, are more resistant to the damages of squash bugs.
  • Like the leaves, the vines will also turn black. After some time, it will turn dry. In some cases, people mistake it as a result of weather that is too hot.
  • Wilting of the plant is another sign you should watch out for. Some might think that this is a result of bacterial wilt from cucumber beetles. This is because of the damages in the vessels of the host plant.

Results of Infestation

With their piercing mouth, they suck on the different parts of the plant, with the most common being the leaves or sap. They extract the nutrients from the host, and hence, making the plant weaker. It disrupts the flow of water to the other parts of the plants. One of the consequences of this is the reduction of crop yield, which is a big problem for commercial growers. They also lead to the sudden wilting of the plant and the spoilage of the fruit even before harvest. These signs of infestation will be most common during the summer months.

Damaged Bugwood

Leaves Damaged by Squash Bugs

How to Get Rid of Squash Bugs

Natural and Organic Solutions

Here are some of the most common solutions that will yield a high level of effectiveness without the need to worry about toxicity:

  • The mechanical destruction of squash bugs should be on the top of your list. This is effective if you only have a small portion to treat. In large plantations, this will be an exhausting task. Do this during the early season when the infestation is not yet that severe.
  • Another thing that is effective is the use of plant fabrics or row covers. This will work best in plants that do not require pollination since you will cover the top of the plant. You need to remove the covers once the plant starts to grow flowers.
  • Mulches are equally effective. This will help in the reduction of moisture in the soil, and hence, making it less attractive for the growth of squash bugs. It can also prevent weeds, which is another good measure to control the population of the bugs.
  • There are also traps that you can use to attract squash bugs. Place the traps at night, and in the morning, you will see the insects accumulate on the surface. Some of the best examples of these traps include heavy cardboards and wooden boards with a sticky coating.
  • Another common solution for the elimination of squash bugs is the presence of natural enemies. You no longer need to hand-pick the bugs as the predators will feed on them. with this, parasitoids are some of the best. These insects develop on the host and eventually, will kill them. There are also bugs that release a foul odor, which will discourage the squash bugs. In the same way, parasitic flies will also be a big help. You have the option to purchase these natural predators. Make sure to buy in quantity that is in accordance with the portion of the garden or plantation that you will treat. Better yet, you can alter the external environment to make it attractive to wasps and flies. For instance, you can plant flowers that produce nectar.

Chemical Solutions

For many commercial growers and in the case of severe infestation, chemical control is common. If you will resort to this solution, be sure to pay attention to its proper application. Pay attention to the instructions from the manufacturer. Full coverage of the plant, especially the parts where the concentration of the pest is the highest, is another factor that will help to achieve success. Synthetic pyrethroids are some of the most common choices when it comes to chemical control. As much as possible, it is better to resort to the use of biological pesticides since they do not harm insects that are beneficial.

How to Prevent Squash Bugs

Among others, field sanitation is one of the preventive measures that will deliver the highest level of effectiveness. Keeping the garden clean and free from plant debris or decaying vegetation will lessen the likelihood that squash bugs will survive. Remove anything that will provide protection for the bugs. Another thing that you can do is to plant varieties that will resist the growth of squash bugs. Some of the best examples of such include butternut and royal acorn. If you have a large or commercial plantation, another method of prevention is crop rotation. This will reduce the immigration of squash bugs.

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