Squash Vine Borer Control: How to Identify, Prevent and Get Rid of Squash Vine Borers

Squash vine borer is a moth that targets a wide array of vine crops. They usually have a small population and the presence is not easy to detect. More often than not, you will only notice them when the host plant already shows signs of infestation and it may be too late to act. To keep their population under control and to limit the consequences of their presence, you need to be knowledgeable about how to get rid of squash vine borers.

This pest belongs to a group known as clearwing moths. When they are adults, they develop transparent wings, which has the primary function of making them look like wasps. With this, they are harder to spot by natural predators. When they reach maturity, they have an average length of ½ inch, and their body is black with orange-red markings. The larvae, on the other hand, is wrinkly and has a color that ranges from white to cream. It is hairless, has a dark head, and has an approximate length of one inch. Lastly, they have tiny, flat, and brown eggs with an oval shape.

Squash Vine Borer

Squash Vine Borer’s Body is Black with Orange-Red Markings

Squash Vine Borer’s Habitat

The female squash vine borer lays its eggs on the base of the stem of the host plant, unlike in the case of most moths wherein the eggs are on the undersides of the leaves. Also, the eggs are laid individually and not in a group. The larvae will feed on the stems or the fruits of their host plant. During the pupation stage, they burrow themselves about an inch under the soil, which is also where they spend their winter. The adults will appear in the first few weeks of summer. They fly from one plant to another during the daytime.

Identifying Squash Vine Borer’s Damage

Plants Affected

The most common host plants are vine crops, which include squash, pumpkin, and zucchini. It is very rare that they are seen in melon, cucumber, and gourd.

Symptoms

Unsure if squash vine borers are already affecting your plants? The following are some of the most common signs that will give you a hint of their presence:

  • Wilting is one of the first signs that they are already causing an infestation. This is basically because of the tunnels on the vines, which inhibit the transfer of nutrients. When the plant is unable to receive water and other nutrients, it is inevitable that it will wilt.
  • Especially in their larval stage, the squash vine borer will excrete crass. This is a sticky excrement that builds up on the surface. It gets thicker the longer the pest stays on the host plant.
  • Pay attention to the stems as well. Try to squish it. If there are holes near the stem and if they feel mushy, this is another sign that there are squash vine borers.

Results of Infestation

The injury from squash vine borers makes it impossible for the host plants to achieve healthy and full growth. The pest inhibits the transport of the nutrients that are vital for the growth of the host plant. They will become weak and will not be able to provide the structural support that is needed. Eventually, it is inevitable that the plant will die. In severe instances, this can cause to economic loss for commercial growers. The crops will end up being unmarketable, and hence, equate to a significant loss in profit.

Squash Vine Borer Damage

Squashes Damaged by Squash Vine Borers

How to Get Rid of Squash Vine Borers

Natural and Organic Solutions

For the elimination of squash vine borers in a manner that is safe and effective, the following are some of the solutions that can bring a lot of promise:

  • Deworming is one of the common solutions amongst home gardeners. You have to do it manually, which is why it is only best if you have to deal with a small area. You have to cut the vine lengthwise and take out the borers. Be sure to cover the stem with earth. This will encourage the presence of secondary roots.
  • Also, if you see holes in the stems, you can prick it with a wire. This will kill the larva. However, this is good only if the population is still small and if you only have a few plants to deal with.
  • The use of diatomaceous earth is another traditional pest control procedure that will work. Diatoms, the aquatic organisms that make up this product, will be effective in killing the borers. As an alternative, you can also consider the use of black pepper to deter the presence of the pest.
  • Another cost-effective solution that will work is the use of yellow sticky traps. Once you are sure that they are present, lay the traps on the surface. The next morning, be sure to discard the trap properly. You can burn it or throw it in a bucket of soapy water, making sure that you will kill the borers and they will not return to the host plant.
  • It will also be good if you will plant trap crops or extra squash. If there is one good thing about squash vine borers, it is the fact that they are not ferocious eaters. They will survive only for about eight weeks. Hence, they will find it impossible to devour all your crops within such period. In the same way, it will be better to plant resistant varieties, which will prevent their presence.

Chemical Solutions

While this may seem a promising solution, it is important to observe caution. Many pesticides have harsh chemicals, which can bring more harm than good. Be sure to pay attention to its proper application and the precautions from the manufacturer.

Among others, some of the most common active ingredients in chemicals for the treatment of squash vine borers include permethrin, flubendiamide, bifenthrin, and acetamiprid. For brand names, on the other hand, some products that you can use include Ambush 25W, Synapse WG, Brigade 2EC, and Assail 30 SG.

How to Prevent Squash Vine Borers

Among others, one of the best preventive measures is early planting. This will allow you to harvest before the start of summer, and hence, squash vine borer will never be a problem since they will not yet emerge. Also, do not plant your crop in the same location for consecutive years. This is because the pest overwinters under the soil, which will increase the possibility of infestation. You can also use protective barriers for the stem, such as aluminum foil. This will prevent the pest from creating entry holes. Lastly, it will also help to put floating row covers.

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