Preventing Pests from Attacking Your Squash Plants Preventing Pests from Attacking Your Squash Plants
Squash plants are vulnerable to a range of pests, attracted by the softness of the fruit. A serious infestation of pests can ruin a potentially good crop. Read on to learn what type of pests attack squash and how to prevent infestations.
Squash Vine Borer
The most well-known of all the pests affecting squash is the squash vine borer. A small caterpillar, they nest inside squash stems and cause plants to decline virtually overnight. These are difficult to detect until the plant shows obvious signs of disease; although careful checking of plants can reveal a small hole with sawdust-like traces at the base; if these are found before the plant wilts, then there is a chance to save the plant. When it is dark, carefully examine the squash plant using a flashlight; the place where the borer is will be obvious – use a toothpick or skewer to piece the stem and borer.
The squash bug is another problem among these plants. These bugs, which are about half an inch long, with flat bodies, are pests to squash plants in both adult and larvae form. They often favor winter squash such as pumpkins, but will really dine off of any of the squash varieties. Adults and young suck plant juice from the leaves and stems, and also inject a substance which causes squash plants to wither and die. Infested plants will not produce any fruit.
Aphids may also attack squash. These are the easiest bugs to get rid of, as they can be blasted with soap and water. A foil or mulch around the base of squash will deter the pests, or you can plant silver-leaved plants such as cocozelle around the squash.
It is very difficult to prevent vine borers from getting in to squash plants, once they are in the garden. The best preventative measure, then is to have a clean garden where any dead squash plants and fruit are burned quickly to discourage the borer. Plants with a known infestation should be destroyed, not composted. Vine borers can be prevented from burrowing into the stem by using a barrier such as nylon or tape around the base of the plant. Rotating the squash area in the garden will also help. Plant carrots or onions instead, but be careful not to use nightshade plants, as other problems such as squash fungus can remain.
The squash bug can be plucked from the leaves by hand, or sprayed with water to make them let go; prevention can take the form of trellising the earth bed on which the plants are growing, and also planting borders of nectar-producing flowers, which encourage predators of the squash bug.
Using devices such as a garden duster can help to prevent pests from getting a grip on squash plants. These spray a fine mist over a large area, or use a specialist devices to get the dust under leaves. A substance known as diatomaceous earth “food grade” can be used to spray for larvae, termites, spider mites, flies and beetles without affecting the fruit, but be aware that it can also kill beneficial pollinating insects such as bees.