These pests are accurately described as squash vine borers (SVB) because of the plants the larvae most often attack.
These fat white worms feed on vine crops such as pumpkins, winter and summer squash, zucchini, and gourds. They may also go after cucumbers and melons. Wilting is usually the first sign of an attack .
Adults are generally mistaken for bees or wasps because of their movements and orange and black markings. They lay eggs at the base of plants. After about a week, the larvae hatch out and cause damage by piercing into stems to feed.
Here’s how to get rid of squash vine borers naturally:
1. Bacillus Thuringiensis (B.t.)
This is a biological pesticide widely used in agriculture across the world. It is a soil-dwelling bacterium that produces a protein that is toxic to certain insects and related pests.
Buy B.t. for squash vine borers and spray it on the leaves and stems of your squash plants. You can also inject it directly into the plant’s vine.
Bacillus thuringiensis will kill squash vine borer eggs or larvae.
2. Row Covers
This is a popular method of plant protection against many garden pests. Row covers of a special lightweight material are suspended over the growing crops, supported by hoops.
These coverings keep out the moths, preventing them from laying their eggs on the plants. However, the material will still allow light and air to reach your crops.
3. Yellow Sticky Traps
Yellow attracts the adult vine borer, so hanging yellow sticky traps near your crops will serve as bait. These will catch the adult moths and prevent them from laying eggs, thus breaking the cycle.
4. Parasitic Wasps
Some parasitic wasps feed on vine borer eggs. Additionally, parasitic wasps may lay eggs on or inside the larvae of these insects.
After hatching, the developing wasps parasitize the SVB larvae, devouring them as they feed and develop. Therefore, attract parasitic wasps to your garden to help control a vine borer infestation.
5. Trap Crop
Utilizing trap crops as companion plants can help draw these pests away from your main crop. One such crop is the blue hubbard squash. These insects will flock to it instead of your main crop.
6. Remove by Hand
Picking off the squash vine borer larvae may be an unpleasant task, but it is an effective one to control vine borers organically.
You should also check thoroughly for eggs and pick them off. They are tiny but orange-brown in color, and you will spot them at the bases of target plants.
7. Crop Rotation
Rotating crops is another way of controlling pests. Try not to plant squash in the same spot for two consecutive years.
If an alternating crop is planted, overwintering larvae will be unable to find the right food in the next season.
8. Diatomaceous Earth (DE)
This is a naturally occurring substance composed of the fossilized remains of diatoms. Diatomaceous earth is very sharp, causing irritation for soft-bodied insects and related pests. This fine white powder will cut into squash worms and cause dehydration and death.
Therefore, sprinkle DE around the base of plants. You should also use it to dust the entire plant.
9. Aluminum Foil Wrap
Another squash vine borer control home remedy is aluminum foil wrap. To protect the main stem of the plant, wrap it with foil.
This will prevent squash vine borer moths from laying their eggs on the stem.
10. Neem Oil
Neem oil is another remedy to prevent these pests from damaging your crops. It will kill vine borer larvae as they eat through the vine.
Therefore, make a homemade squash borer spray by combining 2 tablespoons of neem oil with a gallon of water. Use it to spray all the surfaces of your plants.
11. Beneficial Nematodes
There are harmful and beneficial nematodes. The helpful ones can be bought from specialist suppliers to apply to the soil. Beneficial nematodes will seek out and devour the larval and pupal stages of SVB.
12. Mulch Plant Stems
The real problem with controlling the critters is their ability to get into the stems of plants, where spraying will not affect them. Therefore, covering the main stem with mulch will help prevent squash vine borer eggs from being deposited there.
An adult female moth is capable of laying up to 150 eggs in a season. A good mulch will form a protective barrier for the plants’ stems.
13. Plant Late
Consider planting a crop later in the summer. Towards the end of August, female SVB moths will stop laying eggs.
Therefore, consider planting a second crop near the end of the laying period. The crop will likely mature after the pests have stopped laying eggs and will not suffer damage.
14. DIY Yellow Trap
These creatures are attracted to the color yellow. To make a homemade squash vine borer trap, fill a yellow container with soap and water.
The color will attract the adult moths, after which they will fall in and drown. Change and refill the soapy solution every few days.
15. Pest-Repelling Plants
These pests do not like the scent of certain plants. Plants that repel squash vine borers include mint, basil, onion, and parsley.
So, planting these in your garden will help keep SVB away from your squash plants. Additionally, radish repels the squash vine borer moth.
This is a natural insecticide that works against borers. You can also use it to control thrips, caterpillars, ants, and many other garden pests.
Spinosad is commercially available in spray form. Use it according to the instructions on the label.
Finding worms in squash can be very disheartening. However, adopting some of these home remedies and natural methods can prove effective in dealing with the problem.