The part of the growing season I enjoy the most is after everything is planted and you just get to watch it grow until the harvest–or the weeds and pests take over.
Today, it happened. I found squash bugs.
Because zucchini is on my list of favorite foods, the squash bug is enemy #1 around here. I have been known to spend several hours a day hunting them down and administering a rapid, painful death. This year, I don’t have near enough plants to keep me that busy; but I would take the time if I had to.
Let me tell you about squash bugs. This is what their eggs look like. You will need to inspect the underside of all your leaves on a regular basis. Once you find a cluster, squish them. If you have trouble squishing, I’ve been known to just tear that section of leaf out.
This is what the squash bug looks like. They hang out on the underside of the leaves or at the base of the stems of the plants. They like to hide in the mulch. So if you mulch your garden, don’t put it too close the the base of the plants or you will never find those little critters.
After I inspect every leaf, I go back and check for the bugs. I keep a cup of soapy water handy and when I find a bug I pick it up and drop it into the soapy water. The suds keep them under and they drown.
If you do not get a grip on these bugs from the get-go, they will get out of hand and will kill your plants–possibly before you even get enough zucchini (or other types of squash) to put up for the year. I have, a time or two, had that happen. When it does, I’ve had to resort to other measures.
First, let me tell you that pesticides do not kill them.
I once put a fence around my zucchini patch and put a few chickens in there. The chickens ate the bugs. That helped some, but it didn’t take care of the eggs and so they just kept coming.
The one thing that I did that worked great, when the infestation was really bad, was to use my vacuum cleaner. I had read in The New Organic Grower by Eliot Coleman that he uses a shop vac. The shop vac did not work for us because the hose was too big around to get a good suction. So my son just toted the bag-less upright out to the garden and sucked up all them little critters, eggs and all.
Others have told me to cover the plants with floating row cover until they flower to prevent them taking hold in the first place. I have tried doing that with no success. Not only does the row cover prevent the plants from growing to their full height, it only prolongs the infestation. It doesn’t prevent it.
What about you? What have you done to deal with squash bugs? Please share your experiences in the comments so that we can all learn from each other.