Squashing squash bugs

Published 11:58 pm Friday, June 30, 2017

One of the tastiest garden vegetables that works 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 zucchini’s 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 borer 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 ten days. They will immediately bore into the stems. Their sawdust-like frass is the first indication that they have arrived.

Once they bore into the stem it is usually over. Water flow is cut off, the plant will wilt. Pull up the stem and burn or bag the debris. Replanting a second crop in early July is another option.  Plant in a new area and till to destroy any larvae in the soil.

If practical, floating row covers can be used as a physical barrier but you must open them when flowering for pollination. Keep the barrier in place at least two weeks after you spotted the adults.

Stagger your plantings to stay ahead of the squash vine borer. They will mature after adult borers have laid their eggs.  You can also place insect netting or nylon fabric at the plant base to prevent oviposition, the laying of eggs by the adult.

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.

Squash bugs are another noxious pest.  They not only such the juices out of the plant, they also introduce the disease Yellow Vine Decline, a double whammy. Flip over the leaves and you will spot their light bronze, football shaped, egg masses between the veins. Now is the time to get revenge. Squash the squash bugs. You must check every day to stay ahead of them.

Squash bugs like to hide under boards near the garden. Turn over the boards and kill them with a spray, either organic or inorganic. Planting a trap crop such as Blue Hubbard squash or pumpkins on the edge of the garden. When they congregate there, spray them.

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.

To control newly hatched larva, time two sprays seven days apart. Organic alternatives are pyrethrin or spinosad. The spray must penetrate the canopy. Keep an eye out for additional offspring. Light neem oil is effective when nymphs are feeding.

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.

Squash bugs are another irritant to 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.

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

What’s going on in Extension?

Market on Main: Every Saturday at the Carmike parking lot from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. The freshest produce in Troup County.

July 17: Troup County Association of Beekeepers Meeting; 7 p.m. at the Ag Center; Topic: Pollinating Plants for Bees

Grassmasters Program:  If you are raising forages for sheep, goats, horses or cattle and want to improve your pastures and hay this class may be for you. Begins August 31 and ends October 26. This class will meet on Thursday evenings from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. for seven evenings. The cost is $25 per family. Call UGA Extension-Harris County to register. 706.628.4824 This is sponsored by Troup, Meriwether and Harris County Extension.

Brian Maddy is the ANR Agent for Troup County Extension. The Troup County Extension office is located at 114 Church Street, LaGrange, GA. 30240 (706) 883-1675. Monday – Friday/8 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.