Controlling squash bugs organically is not really that difficult, but it does take frequent and careful observation.
At first glance (in the photo below), this zucchini plant looks like it’s doing great – right? It looks so nice and lush, I’m sure there must be a bumper crop of zucchini on the way. And since it’s been a year since we’ve been harvesting zucchini, we’re ready for them!
I like to use them in lots of casseroles that we eat all fall, winter, and spring – until it’s zucchini time yet again.
But if you look a little closer, things are not quite as great as it first appears – there are squash bugs in there!
What Are Squash Bugs?
They’re brownish-black bugs (officially Anasa Tritis species) that are about 3/4″ – 1″ long. They feed on the leaves of vining crops like squash, pumpkins, and melons. You can read more about them on Wikipedia HERE.
As you can see in the photos below, their feeding causes the plant to wilt and will eventually cause it to die. They’re generally found wherever these vining crops are grown. Ugly, aren’t they?
Controlling Squash Bugs Organically
Organic controls for squash bugs include:
- Planting flower and vegetable varieties that repel them (obviously I didn’t do enough of that). These include things such as marigold, nasturtium, and radish.
- Practicing good garden sanitation and weed control are important as these bugs tend to hide beneath the foliage. If you can’t see what’s going on in the garden because of too many weeds or overcrowding, it’s often hard to find these bugs.
- Inspect your garden daily and once you find them, handpick and destroy all the insects and eggs (or simply destroy the entire stalk). The eggs are dark red and are laid in clusters on the leaves.
- Practice crop rotation (see Crop Rotation – A Simple System) to help keep these guys under control. It’s much harder for them to infest a plant if they can’t find it because it’s in a new location this year.
- If you have a good supply of wood ashes available, dusting the stems and leaves with wood ash can help prevent squash bug infestations.
The good news is that they do tend to cluster, so if you’re inspecting your garden regularly you can usually catch and handpick these before they do cause an otherwise healthy plant to die.
After carefully removing and destroying the infested zucchini stalk below, the plant made a nice recovery and supplied lots of squash!