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 (Bt)
This is a biological insecticide widely used in agriculture across the world. It is a soil-dwelling bacterium that produces a protein that is toxic to insect larvae.
You can buy Bt for squash vine borers as a commercial product and dilute it into a spray, following the instructions on the package.
2. Row Covers
This is a popular method of plant protection against many pests. Row covers of special lightweight material are suspended over the growing crops supported by hoops and fixed well into the ground.
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
Using beneficial insects like these tiny wasps destroys the eggs. You can attract parasitic wasps to your garden in large enough numbers to control a vine borer infestation.
Their method is to lay eggs and parasitize the larvae of insect pests, devouring them as they hatch out to feed and develop.
5. Trap Crop
Companion planting trap crops nearby will draw the pests away from your main crop. One such crop is the Blue Hubbard squash.
6. Remove by Hand
Picking off the squash vine borer larvae may be an unpleasant task but 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 a logical way of controlling pests. If an alternating crop is sown, overwintering larvae will be unable to find the right food in the next spring.
8. Diatomaceous Earth (DE)
This is a naturally occurring substance composed of the fossilized remains of diatoms. Diatomaceous earth is very sharp (cause irritation) for soft-bodied insects. This fine white powder will cut into squash worms and cause dehydration and death.
Sprinkle it around the base of plants to create a barrier for vine borers. Also, use it to dust the entire plant.
9. Aluminum Foil Wrap
Another squash vine borer control home remedy is the aluminum foil wrap. To protect the stem base of new plants, wrap them with foil. The critters will lay their eggs on it instead of the crops.
10. Neem Oil
Neem oil is another remedy that disrupts the life cycle of squash vine borer. To keep away or prevent these pests from coming around, use neem oil in your garden. Its garlicky smell will help deter them.
Make a homemade squash borer spray by combining 2 tablespoons of neem oil with a gallon of water. Use it to spray all 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.
These tiny worm-like parasites will devour the larvae and pupae stage of SVB.
12. Mulch Plant Stems
The real problem of controlling the critters is their ability to get in 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.
Adult female moths of this type are capable of shedding hundreds of eggs in a season. A good mulch will form a protective barrier for the base of plants.
13. Plant Late
Consider planting a crop later in summer. Towards the end of July, female SVB moths will stop laying. Therefore, crops planted after the laying period will be spared attacks from the pest.
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. Repellent Plants
These pests do not like the scent of certain plants. Plants that repel squash vine borers include mint, basil, onion, and parsley.
Therefore, companion planting these in your garden will help mask the scent of your squash plants. Additionally, radish repels the squash vine borer moth.
This is a natural insecticide that is also deadly to vine borers. You can also use it to control thrips, caterpillars, ants, and many other insect pests.
It is commercially available in spray form. Use 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.