Sunday, July 31, 2011

What To Do When Squash Bugs Attack Your Pumpkin Patch?

I am only growing one pumpkin plant this year, so it's imperative I take special care of it. Though it's been a little "slow out of the gate," it's shown good signs of life during the last week or so. Unfortunately that "life" is not just plant matter, but bugs ... big bugs ... I'm talking about the dreaded Squash Bug!

In recent days I have seen & identified a few of these creatures, and today when I saw two sets of eggs - I had had enough. It's time for action. Though I'm 99% organic, the ONLY product I ever use is GardenTech's Sevin-5 Dust. I use this powder on rare occasions, like today (16-32 ounces seems to last me a year). According to the label, it's supposed to kill Squash Bugs (I'll post an addendum on this post later to let you know the results).

Last evening I studied these bugs - as they relate to pumpkins - and am further devising a game plan to rid these monsters before they put a kibosh to my 2011 Halloween vegetation. So far about 80% of my plant is in good condition.
Squash bug damage on a pumpkin plant leaf
The most difficult garden pest?

Many people consider the squash bug the most frustrating and difficult of all garden pests. For one, there appears to be no universal solution that works for everyone. Secondly, they overwinter extremely well and can return year after year (getting worse each growing season), making it sometimes impossible to ever successfully grow squash, pumpkins or other melons again.

Like any pest that multiplies rapidly, early-season or early-plant-stage intervention appears to be the best defense against squash bug infestation & damage.

Human versus Squash Bug

Unfortunately, manual control may be your best & most effective remedy. Removing each bug by hand (one at a time) and crushing their eggs can help control your local squash bug population, but must be performed on a regular basis to be most effective. Since eggs take at least a week to hatch, egg detection can be performed once-a-week.

Mulch and other debris must be kept to a minimum. Squash bugs love to hide, and removing any mulch or other garden debris left lying around keeps them from wanting to hang around.

This "hiding" tendency amongst squash bugs can also be used to your advantage. Laying boards or wood around the base of your pumpkins makes a perfect overnight hangout for squash bugs. In the morning, flip the wood over, and you're likely to see many squash bugs huddled conveniently together, perfectly queued for mass extermination.

Eggs (& Closeup) As Laid On Leaf Of a Pumpkin Plant
The Bitter Truth - You May Need Chemical Intervention

Organic methods of controlling the Squash Bug appear to be limited. Yes I found a few "folk remedies" by some wise old gardeners swearing upon their success, and Neem Oil seems to work for some. I did run across this website, which suggested the use of Diatomaceous earth/pyrethrins applications around the base of the plant (the website says it's allowable in Certified Organic vegetable production). If anyone else wants to try this, let me know of your results.

If you're going to use insecticides, look for esfenvalerate, permethrin, or carbaryl as the main active ingredient and be sure to spray the under-side of the leaves, as this is where squash bugs do much of their damage.

As I mentioned earlier in this article, I use Sevin-5 on rare occasions. Squash bugs are listed as one of 65+ bugs it's said to kill.


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