For commercial or home-growers, the problem of eliminating pests like squash bugs is of prime importance.
Chemical spraying may be effective for large farms but today many growers prefer eco-friendly solutions to deal with infestations.
There are summer and winter varieties of the squash vegetable, including butternut, zucchini, marrow, and pumpkin which are affected by the bug. All types need a pest-free environment to thrive.
Here’s how to get rid of squash bugs naturally.
1. Trap Crops
Sowing other plants that are attractive to squash bugs (Anasa tristis) is one way of dealing with the problem by luring them away from the main crop.
Adults can fly and will settle on any plant that appears desirable.
A secondary crop such as Blue Hubbard can substantially reduce the infestation on the main plants. This secondary crop can be cut back or destroyed along with the bugs.
For this reason, trap crops are sometimes called ‘sacrificial plants’. This is a suitable method for commercial farming.
2. Hose Them
One approach sometimes employed by gardeners is simply to use a strong jet of water on the plants.
Leaving a hose out in full sunshine before spraying will heat the water and destroy many bugs on contact, and yet others may drown.
Alternatively, they can be flushed out with cold water and vacuumed up and disposed of.
3. Soap Spray
This method involves using a hand spray filled with water and some organic insecticidal liquid soap.
The soapy water can be sprayed directly onto them and/or around or under the leaves where they may be hiding.
4. Coffee Grounds
A simple organic means of pest control.
Coffee grounds can be boiled in water and sprayed onto the bugs or spread around the base of the plants.
This also repels other bugs, beetles, and mosquitos.
5. Neem Oil
Vegetable oil extracted from various parts of the neem tree and widely used in organic farming today.
It is a natural pesticide and effective against attacks by many pests including squash bugs.
Neem oil can also be used to keep clear of mildew and fungus, helping to keep the entire garden healthy and so deter attacks from destructive insects.
Spray frequently from the spring onwards to kill them.
6. Hand Pick
Not a suitable choice for large-scale crop growers but individual backyard gardeners, this effective home remedy needs only patience and persistence.
Some farmers suggest using duct tape to remove the pests or some other form of sticky material.
This method needs to be applied daily to control the infestation.
7. Diatomaceous Earth
This is a very successful natural means of pest control for large infestations.
DE is also known as fossil shell flour being composed of the crushed and powdered shells of tiny fossilized aquatic creatures.
The white powder is actually a type of sand and when bugs come into contact with it, they become dehydrated and die.
The sharpness of the powder can also cut through and destroy the larvae of squash bugs and other pests.
Sprinkle it around on the soil around affected plants and the leaves. A fresh application will be needed after a rain shower.
8. Remove Eggs
A painstaking removal of squash bug eggs will help prevent an infestation of the critters.
They can be identified as clusters of very small brown oval-shaped eggs nestling under the leaves of the plants.
These can be scraped off and removed or duct tape can also be used for this purpose.
9. Row Covers
Another simple method of tackling the problem is to plant in rows and protect the young plants with a cover.
Synthetic material is most commonly used and supported by an additional framework. This also provides protection from birds, frosts, and other elements of the weather.
Variations can be bought or homemade from fine mesh or other suitable lightweight fabrics.
10. Repellent Plants
One of the most widely known and effective repellent plants is the common marigold (calendula).
These make a beautiful and complementary splash of color to the garden but planted near to the squash will deter pests.
11. Clean Up
Keeping the plants pruned and the garden clean will also deter the development of many pests.
Mulch is best avoided as this attracts and harbors insects of all kinds.
12. Companion Planting
Along with marigolds, several other plants can be grown to repel squash bugs and protect the crop. These include nasturtiums, radishes, dill, and other herbs.
Trap crops can also be grown alongside the plant to draw many pests away from the garden.
13. Beneficial Insects
Commercial insecticides may also kill off many types of beneficial insects that feed on unwanted critters.
Planting marigolds not only repels the bugs, but the pollen and flowers also attract the Tachinid Fly (Trichopoda Pennipes).
This small helpful insect lays its eggs on the pests and, after hatching out, burrows into them and devours them.
14. Kaolin Clay
This is an entirely organic mineral substance that does not kill pests outright.
The clay works by disrupting the life cycle of the pests by preventing them from feeding and eliminating them in this way.
15. Bug Buster-O
A commercially available organic pesticide containing pyrethrins that can be sprayed directly onto the critters, instantly destroying them.
Buster-O is safe to use on plants by all means.
Squash is one of the most important crops grown today. It is a beautiful colorful plant that is also a highly nutritious foodstuff.
Although botanically classed as a fruit, it is usually prepared and eaten as a savory dish in the same way as vegetables are used.
Protecting your crop, controlling the life cycle of harmful bugs, and eliminating them from the garden and around the house can be achieved by patient care and entirely organic methods.