September 15, 2010

Summer Squash Bug Trouble




Has everyone had as much trouble with these squash bugs as I have this year?  I have never, ever let a crop go because I couldn't keep up, but this year, I met my match with these two insects.  Last year I only mixed up three bottles of organic dish soap and water throughout the entire growing season.  This year, I was using almost two bottles a day!  Then the continuous heat of July came where the temperatures were over 100 degrees every day.  Now if anyone is familiar with southern Missouri, July also means extreme humidity.  This form of humidity makes it hard to breath and you can easily lose a few pounds just watering the garden in the morning.  Two hours out in the early morning for watering was all I ended up being able to take.  Needless to say, I lost my entire summer squash and winter squash crop this year and I'm none to happy about it.  It's not that my tried and true tactics didn't work, the weather prohibited me from getting every single last one of these troublesome critters.  The new plan of attack, to safeguard next year, was to research these insects and find a better way to deter them by heading them off at the pass.  
 These  pictures are from the Missouri Extension office.  They have some wonderful ideas, which I should've looked at a long time ago.  The squash bugs (top picture) can be kept from establishing by simply providing row covers according to the extension office.  They mention to be sure and remove the row covers when it's blooming time.  I have to say that I'm not sure this will take care of it, but it sure might put a big dent in the insect's process. 
We used row covers over our broccoli and I still ended up with a small amount of worms, however, the end result was a 100% better than the previous years.  These squash bugs prefer pumpkins, watermelons and squash, but they covered our cantaloupe this year too.  They lay eggs on the undersides of the leaves, which in a smaller garden, can be destroyed by hand.  If not destroyed, they will hatch and feed on the sap from the stems and leaves.  The end result will be a brown, wilted plant.  Not a pretty sight.

The Squash Vine Borer bugs (second picture), in our garden, focused on the zucchini and crookneck squash only.  One day these plants were large, lush and dark green.  They next morning I went out and they were laying over on their sides, dead.  One by one, they all went.  I have never had an issue with these borer's before so this situation was new to me.  The extension office states that this insect prefers summer squash, pumpkins and gourds and doesn't usually bother cucumbers or melons.  The larvae will literally bore into the stem near the crown of the plant, which will cut the plant off from water and nutrients.  The recommendation is to plant a "trap crop" for them, of Hubbard squash.  Hubbard squash seem to be what they prefer over anything, which will make it less likely for them to bother what we really want to grow.  This concept is interesting to me.  What other types of "trap crops" can we benefit from?  If we plant a "trap crop" does that only promote the "bad" insect population?  If the insect doesn't overwinter in the ground, it may be a good plan, otherwise I would be tempted to find where they are and destroy them instead of taking the chance that they will over populate the garden the following year.  If anyone has their own tried and true tactics, please let me know!
Missouri Extension - Insects and Disease Prevention



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