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Squash Bugs Attack
Saturday, 30 June 2012 13:31

Squash Bugs Attack

Squash bugs hit my backyard garden again this year, and hit it hard.  The pumpkin patch and all of the zucchini plants are destroyed.

After I lost all of my pumpkin vines last year before I could harvest a single pumpkin, I set out on a mission to educate myself about what happened.  I took a photo of the insects that infested my vines and posted to Twitter.  I received some suggestions to contact Suzanne Wainwright and she helped me to identify the pests as Squash Bug, Anasa sp.  (Thanks Suzanne!)  She also told me that they also secrete highly toxic saliva into the host plant.  So that explained the loss of my crop.

I researched everything I could about methods of control that do not involve pesticides.  As it turns out, squash bugs are extremely resilient.  The general consensus of all the websites I looked at to destroy squash bugs was to literally squash them.  Methods ranged from laying a board on the ground to lift in the morning and destroying the pests to one guy taking his shop vacuum out to the garden and sucking them up.

Another suggestion I found was to plant out squash plants as soon as temperatures allow.  This gives the vines time to grow to a larger size before the squash bugs show up, giving the vines a fighting chance.

I also read on several websites that interplanting borage throws squash bugs off the scent of the pumpkin vines.

So, this year, I planted out my pumpkin and zucchini starts the second week of March (which is when I usually plant my tomatoes since here, that is when the danger of frost has passed) and interplanted several borage plants.  Every looked great and did not have my first squash bug sighting until half way through the month of May.

One side note, borage is covered in little "hairs".  I found out the hard way that I am part of the population that is sensitive to those hairs.  After reaching into the garden bed to check on things, I ended up with a rash on my forearms that itched horribly for an entire week.

Then triple digit heat hit.  Every day.  Unfortunately, it seems like this was too much for the borage to handle and every plant withered and died.  That was about the time the infestation started.  One by one, my plants were succumbing and I just couldn't stay ahead of them.  Now every plant has turned yellow and most have shriveled brown.  Tomorrow, all the plants are being pulled out to make room for something else.

The upshot of all of this (yes, there is one) is that I started the plants early enough that I was able to harvest several pumpkins and many, many pounds of zucchini.  The freezer is filled with zucchini and there are pumpkins curing on the dining room table.  Although I have yet to discover the cure-all for the infestation, at least I got a harvest this year!

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