Prior to embarking on the control process perhaps you need to know a little about the squash bugs. Squash bugs are an insect type among the family of melons, gourds and cucumbers. These insects will tap into the plant in your gardens and suck the juices. This will eventually result in the yellowing and wilting of the leaves.
Depending on the infestation levels and the general health of the plants, they may end up dying after the plague. Other times when the insects attack your almost fruiting plants they may develop fruit that is deformed apart from spreading the cucurbit yellow vine disease.
Therefore once you suspect that your garden has been infested quick action is necessary to save your crop. It may be worthwhile to consider using sustainable pest management practices in order to register effective results against these undesirable insect pests.
Identifying Squash Bugs
Generally the picture you will have of an adult squash bug is that of an insect about half an inch long with dark gray or brown and may be black, often with an outlining that is orangish-brown along the wing edges. Furthermore their shape is a flat back that is long and shield like. Usually the nymphs are smaller although quite similar in shape like the adults.
These will be seen grouped together on the leaves underside of the infected plants. These insects have yellowish – bronze colored eggs that are oval in shape and a common sight on the underside of the leaves. The adult squash bugs hibernate in garden litter during winter and emerge in late spring and early summer for mating. Afterwards they lay their eggs attaching them on the undersides of leaves. The nymphs will hatch in 14 days and during all this time the plant is susceptible full scale infestation.
Some preventive methods worth trying
There are a variety of ways of controlling this squash bugs menace. You may already be practicing some of these and when you have a sustainable management plan you will be able to eradicate any likely threat from the infestation of these squash bugs
1. Growing organic plants that are healthy
Generally the health of the plant will determine how it will withstand an attack. Obviously the infestation has a heavy toll on weak plants hence the need to always ensure that your gardening practice yields organic plants that are healthy. Of course planting the squash and cucurbits in an organically fertile soil that is exposed to sufficient sunlight will ensure that the plants quickly outgrow the likely threat by these squash bugs.
2. Growing the resistant varieties
Note that plants like pumpkins and both Hubbard and yellow summer squashes are highly susceptible to squash bugs infestation. However others like acorn, butternut and zucchinis squashes are least susceptible to infestation. Therefore it would probably be a good idea to plant these in order to avoid the squash bugs.
3. Avoid the squash bugs season
During late spring to early summer squash bugs emerge after hibernating in winter. You may consider planting squash earliest in the season so that these plants grow healthy and are producing before the squash bugs emerge. Succession planting can also be effective in controlling these bugs. This requires adequate planning that value seasons and times as most important.
4. Eradicate likely hiding places
Squash bugs will hibernate under all manner of litter including rocks and mulch. Remember that when these bugs find such habitation they will spend their winter hiding and come out unexpectedly when spring and summer sets in. you definitely do not want to wait for this ambush and hence the need to keep your garden clean and neat.
You can also use protective plant barriers like reemay. This is a covering more like plastic but lighter translucent and porous. Hence it will allow water, sunlight and air to get to your plants while keeping away the undesirable squash bugs. These covers can be laid directly on the plants and they are flexible enough to allow the plant to grow.
Always ensure that the covers are properly supported so that the bugs don’t have any access point to the plants. While using the reemay cover ensure that at flowering you physically uncover the plants so that pollination can be accomplished
Sometime you can just hand pick, especially during in the early season. This will certainly reduce the bug population. Keeping a close eye on your plants often inspecting them and particularly their undersides can also be of much help to you. In this way you can be searching for the egg clusters, nymphs, and adults. On finding them you simply crush in your hands or drown them in soapy water.
You can also use insecticides as a last resort. These must be certified by the relevant agencies to ensure that you do not harm your health or contaminate the environment. Some of the common products that you can choose from are like neem oil, insecticidal soap and pyrethrin. Generally practicing good gardening procedures is the surest way of eradicating the squash bugs menace.
Furthermore you can combine this with the use of acceptable insecticides and reemay to completely seal your garden from any likely infestation by these bugs. Most of these methods fall under the do it yourself category and hence you also save on cost of hiring professionals to eradicate the squash bugs.