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Bug Watch: Squash Bugs

Squash bug laying golden yellow - red eggs

Squash bugs (Anasa tristis)

These bugs can have explosive and multiple population growth throughout the summer and prey upon plants in the Cucurbit family. The inject their long proboscis into the stem, leaves and fruit of the plant, causing local necrosis and eventual death of the plant. The eggs are golden to yellowish to reddish and are often laid in tight cluster, although sometimes they can be found in straight lines along stems and leaf spines. The young nymphs are alien-like creatures which mature to a grey-white and then brown adult.

Squash bug eggs and nymphs on underside of leaf

When squished they emit a smell something like Jolly Ranchers candy and are closely related to brown, (and brown marmorated), stink bugs (which smell more like cilantro when squished). Stink bugs have a rounder body than squash bugs. Spend some time researching Spined Soldier Bugs, which are beneficial insects to have in the garden, but can be mistaken for stink and squash bugs. Know what you’re squishing!

Tip for controlling squash bugs

  • Early control of the eggs is critical. Duct tape is an effective way to remove the eggs from the leaves without damaging the leaves. One reader told us she uses duct tapes to capture nymphs and adults alike. Check the underside of leaves, which is the preferred place to lay.
  • Squashing eggs, nymphs and adults on daily strolls through the garden can be effective for the home gardeners. Some people like to brush them into a tub with soapy water.
  • Companion planting with Nasturtiums can have some repellent effect. I am testing this theory this year. Both Nasturtiums and Squash grow vigorously, so close companion planting can be effective.
  • Squash bugs will naturally gather under a board, or shingle left laying in the garden. You can set this as a trap and then squish or drown the bugs each morning. 

Written by Chris Smith

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