Squash Wars

by Daisy on 06/22/2009

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Last year

Last year's butternut

Last year I harvested 2 zucchini and 2 butternut squash from several huge squash vines. I had squash vine borers AND squash bugs.

I wasn’t prepared. Maybe you’re never really prepared for a squash pest invasion, but I’m gearing up for war this year.

This year, I have even more squash. Yeah, I know. But I want ’em so bad. I have butternuts, zucchini, TWO kinds of pumpkins, and some as-yet-undetermined volunteers.

Here’s the battle plan:

  • Squash planted  in different beds from last year’s debacle
  • Aluminum foil around the stems
  • Nylon stockings around stems
  • Periodic squirts of neem at the base of the stems
  • Weekly insecticidal soap treatments
  • Daily examinations

They are in different beds because squash critters overwinter in the soil to crawl out and attack the new crop.  The aluminum foil is supposed to be a barrier to squash borers.

Ditto for the nylon stockings. Why both? Overkill. Last year was traumatic. I kept hearing about this technique but couldn’t find a photo or a detailed description. It’s harder than it looks, folks, at least the way I did it. The strips of stocking kept rolling up and squirming around and the stems wouldn’t behave. It was like trying to wrap a bandage around a . . . I can’t think of anything like it. It was a unique experience. I’ll wear long sleeves next time. I’m still not sure I did it right. Here’s one attempt:


I don’t know how far up I should go. Any thoughts?

The neem I’m hoping will make the stems less desirable to the borers. The insecticidal soap is to get the bugs I miss in my daily inspection. I can’t turn over every leaf. I planted A LOT of pumpkins.

At the first sign of leaf yellowing or wilting I check and 99% of the time there is a borer hole. I cut off the leaf at the base of the stem and split the leaf stem open until I find the borer and dispatch it.


I have stopped short of trap crops and row covers with hand pollination. If all my measures fail this year I may have to go that far next year.

Ivory is threatening to get some guinea hens for her squash bugs. If they could breed a quiet guinea I’d be right there with her.

How’s the squash pest war on your front?


{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Myrnie June 21, 2009 at 11:01 pm

Oh, good luck! This is my second year in a row with NO successfully germinated squash seeds :o( Phooey- I was looking forward to baseball bat zucchini (and patty-pan squash, and…)

Hope all goes well!

Debbie June 22, 2009 at 8:53 am

There is actually a BT dust (Dipel) that is good for these things. Great idea about the nylon. Because the vines lay on the ground, I’d put the nylon around those places.

Here in NW Florida, we’re having temperatures that are hovering about 98 to 100 degrees and everything is wilting terribly. My cukes are barely making, the okra took a total nose-dive and even my heat-loving beans have stopped growing. But, I have noticed that my vegetable plants in the shady areas are doing very well. Very interesting and I’m definitely keeping a journal. I’ve been looking at my notes from last year and things were pretty much the same then.

Thanks for the tips and hints. My squash is doing well, getting little squashes and then the bugs are eating them clean off the vine. So, time to do a bit of dusting.


Mary June 22, 2009 at 12:40 pm

By this time last year, I had lost all the squash to these critters. This year I was determined to have a better year. I started this season off using the nylons and the foil and lost the bush zucchini to powdery mildew after a very wet spring. The latest trick I read about was to use a large drinking straw (obtained from our local ice cream shop), cut it to fit the length of the stem and split the straw lengthwise. Actually make 2 straws to fit and slip one over the stem and the other over the split straw so the entire stem is encased. I recently started 2 more bush zucchini and am using the straws on them, along with planting icicle radishes around them. I am also spraying the stems of the squash with spinosad every week.

The best solution I found this year, is to grow rampicante zucchini. A friend shared some seeds and mercy, do we have zucchini; enough for us and the neighborhood. These squash can grow to 3-4′ lengths and still be very tender. The seeds are all contained in the bulb end of the squash, and the long necks are seedless. Now I have the great pleasure of once again trying to figure out what to do with all this zucchini… and am hoping that problem continues all summer.

Good luck with your squash; hope the critters don’t find them!

MK June 22, 2009 at 4:13 pm

Try an organic spray called Surround At Home. It’s a powder you mix in suspension with water and spray on the plants. I’ve used it on everything from Squash to fruit trees and more. It isn’t an insecticide. It acts more like camouflage. It supresses the insect infestation. It can be ordered from Gardens Alive organics.

Kitty June 22, 2009 at 4:41 pm

I use water infused with peppermint essential oil. About 3 drops to a liter of water. Let sit ahile and pour on. The ground the plant, whatever looks right. It has wowrked for me. Good luck

Marcy June 22, 2009 at 5:39 pm

I have been through the same thing over the past few years. This year I moved to a new spot and I’ve been using diatomaceous earth–so far I’ve had awesome squash, only lost one plant. Chicken litter added this spring is helping too!
Marcy in NC

momof5 June 22, 2009 at 7:52 pm

When I was growing gardens in Michigan we used to use onions, garlic, nasturtiums (for squash and pumpkins) and marigolds (for tomatoes and lettuce). These plants keep the bugs away!

Marigolds keep mosquitos away too. As do elderberry bushes.

But I think nasturtiums are the way to go…Sue

TL June 22, 2009 at 7:54 pm

Myrnie–Sorry about your germination rate! Well, even though I have great big vines, not much squash. Maybe it would be better if I just made room for other stuff.

Debbie–Hope they can hold up until the weather breaks a little. Too hot for okra is saying something! I will check out the bt dust, thanks for the tip!

TL June 22, 2009 at 7:58 pm

My nasturtiums are struggling a little–the squash have fast outpaced them. They are in the corners of the beds and dry out too fast. Thanks for the reminder–I will be giving them more attention with the garden hose and maybe they will come to the rescue!
I’ve never heard that about elderberry bushes–interesting! Thanks, Sue.

TL June 22, 2009 at 8:00 pm

I’ve been forgetting about the diatomaceous earth! Glad you reminded me–I’ll have to dust them tomorrow.
I’m looking forward to chicken litter. The chicks are supposed to arrive in a week or so . . .

TL June 22, 2009 at 8:01 pm

I love that! I am willing to try anything and that sounds easy, thanks, Kitty.

TL June 22, 2009 at 8:05 pm

I like that, sort of an invisibility cloak for the garden. Hmm . . . I’m already thinking next year’s garden. What an arsenal I’ll have assembled with y’all’s advice.

TL June 22, 2009 at 8:08 pm

This is such good stuff! Thanks for the great tips! I’m so ready to have a good squash year!

TL June 22, 2009 at 8:09 pm

Thank you! And sorry about your powdery mildew. I have new hope with all these great suggestions. I will check out your reference, kelly, thanks a bunch.

karen June 23, 2009 at 5:15 am

You know you can do “surgery” on your squash/pumpkin plants to get out the squash borers. If the damage is not too severe, take a sharp, clean knife, slit the stem where the borer entered, pull out the little bugger and then cover the slit and stem up with dirt. I’ve done this before and it works, the plant does make a come back.

TL June 23, 2009 at 5:29 am

Hi, karen–I will find a good candidate and try it. I did try this last year but I did it all wrong. My burying dirt was too dry and I don’t think it had a chance to root out again. I think if I kept that dirt mulched with newspaper or something like that and kept it well watered it would work this time. I hope . . .
Thanks for the reminder and the description. I may not have not used a sharp enough knife either. Messy cuts.

Brown Thumb Mama June 23, 2009 at 9:50 am

Sounds like you’re fighting the war on all fronts! Keep it up. Last year I lost all of my green beans to some sort of mildew (misdiagnosed by the guy at the nursery as spider mites).

My squash are slow to germinate this year too. I’ll keep an eye on them and use some of your tips if they have trouble. Time to plant some nasturtiums to give them extra help too!

TL June 23, 2009 at 6:48 pm

We are getting some good suggestions. People have some good ideas. Surely if we do all of them we are bound to get a squash or two!

Carrie September 17, 2009 at 12:56 pm

Just found this post. We had borers this year. I was so disgusted when I saw one of the nasty creatures in MY garden in MY squash plant. We still managed to get 10-12 good squash though before I pulled all the plants up! I think next year I will keep a gardening journal to detail everything.

Tomato Lady September 18, 2009 at 12:32 am

Carrie–I’ve seen some great garden journals. I should really keep one. I think it would be a great help.

Susie Lovato January 8, 2010 at 2:08 pm

I battled squash bugs somewhat successfully. My friend told me to use a simple organic combination of 3 tblsp minced garlic, 3 tblsp and 1/2 cup liquid seaweed add to 2 gallons of water in a watering can and sprinkle liberally. (I think the seaweed is just great fertilizer) It worked really well except you have to reapply it if it rains. That was hard this past summer. I heard the garlic would deter bees and you wouldn’t get any pollination, but it wasn’t a problem here. I got quite a few zuccini, much less but had I been less diligent… the squash bugs would have won. They were horrible. They won on the cucumbers… but, I didn’t realize it until too late. I have heard about Neem oil, but thought I would try putting this simple cominiation to the test and it worked.
Good Luck Next year

Tomato Lady January 8, 2010 at 3:24 pm

Susie–Thanks! I’m starting to get up the courage to try again and your method sounds good.

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