Troup extension agent: Bugs that bug you

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 3, 2016

By Brian Maddy

Contributing columnist

Some of the tastiest garden vegetables that work great in casseroles are the summer squashes.

The ones that we’re most familiar with are the yellow straight or crooked neck, the white scallop or patty pan and the zucchinis that are green, gray, oblong or gold. They grow well in our Georgia soils. Most of the varieties are prolific producers and neighbors will start avoiding you when you appear at their door.

It seems just when your plants are doing well, the leaves and vines start to yellow and wither. This is the result of two insects with similar names and cause similar results — death of the plant. The squash vine borers are moths which overwinter in the soil as a full grown larva.

The larva pupates in the spring and the adult begins to do their damage at about the same time the plants begin to run. They lay individual eggs on leaf stalks and vines and hatch in seven to 10 days. They will immediately bore into the stems. Their sawdust-like frass is the first indication they have arrived.

Many more will follow. To control newly hatched larva, time two sprays seven days apart. The spray must penetrate the canopy. Keep an eye out for additional offspring.

Some gardeners have luck slitting the stems and locating the larva and removing it. Cover the stems with earth and this will encourage new growth. It will encourage rooting, and if the original plant is girdled by the borer, this part may survive.

Sanitation after harvest is very important. Remove the vines and compost them. Remember they can overwinter in your garden and this will help reduce their population for next year.

Planting a second crop in early July is another option. They will mature after adult borers have laid their eggs. If practical, floating row covers can be used as a physical barrier but you can’t use them when flowering as this will prevent pollination. Keep the barrier in place at least two weeks after you spot the adults.

Squash bugs are another irritant, not only to squash plants but also pumpkins, cucumbers and watermelons. They damage the plant by sucking the sap and causing the leaves to wilt. They also spread the disease yellow vine decline through their mouth parts. It eventually kills the plant.

Flip over the leaves and you will spot their light bronze, football shaped egg masses between the veins. The best way to control both the squash bug and yellow vine decline is to apply insecticides as soon as the plants emerge or are set out on a regular spray schedule. This controls overwintering adults and the emerging larva and nymphs.

Nature is a tough adversary. It takes a good gardener to stay ahead.

What’s going on in Extension?

If you want to be a master gardner extension volunteer, please stop by or call the office for more information.

Georgia Master Cattleman Program starting Sept. 6. Call for more information.

Market on Main: Every Saturday morning from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. starting June 4. Come by and enjoy the pick of the day. Carmike Cinemas LaGrange 10 parking lot.

June 9: MGEV meeting, 7 p.m. at the Ag Center.

July 13-17: Up Camp with 4-H, Come get two thumbs Up by growing Up, dressing Up and acting Up with Troup County 4-H. Lots of fun activities. Ninth–12th graders; cost $45.

June 20: Beekeepers, 7 p.m., Ag Center.

June 21: Troup County Cattleman; Dan Wallace, NRCS guest speaker. Topic: soil mapping; 7 p.m. Tuesday. Program will start at 7:30 p.m. The $6 meal will be served at 7 p.m. Ag Center.

If you have any questions or concerns, stop by or call the office.

Brian Maddy is the ANR Agent for Troup County Extension. The Troup County Extension office is located at 114 Church St. in LaGrange and may be reached at 706-883-1675, Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–noon and 15 p.m.