Chemical-Free Squash Bug Management

Adult Squash Bug on leaf

Image courtesy of NC Cooperative Extension

This so-called “shortcut” described below is nothing new, but is my favorite way to manage Squash Bugs in our garden.  We don’t spray chemicals, instead we pick, squish and smush.  I think that’s why they call these bugs and their preferred fruit “squash”, as is in squish, smush and “squash”, but that may be a Southern term.  🙂  We also utilize Lady Bugs as a natural predator to unwanted garden bugs but they don’t help with these.  The Lady Bugs are another reason not to spray chemicals in your garden, because as they kill the unwanted bugs, they also kill the valuable Lady Bugs.   There’s still a lot of time involved doing it this way, as you’ll need to check the underside of the squash leaves in the morning and again at night,  but this management practice is completely doable.  So, along with many other bugs that were actually way more stinky, Squash bugs are among those that we used to call “Stink Bugs” when we were kids.  Back then they were one of the coolest, most entertaining things to run across on a hot summer day.  With their angular sides, they looked scary and combined with the fear of stink (correct or not) they were a force to be reckoned with.  You always had a friend that was scared of them and you know, kids will be kids.  Now, as an adult gardener, I have come to realize that these guys are not cool, entertaining or anywhere near fun.  They are a nuisance. Flea Beetles fall in the same category in my opinion and can often be captured with this same method, so every morning and every evening (or thereabout) we go on a picking & squishing expedition.

Using a hand mirror and some good ole’ duct tape, we take a little bit of a shortcut and collect the egg clusters all at once instead of picking them off one or two at a time with our fingernails.  To do this, simply hold the hand mirror under the leaves to look for the egg clusters.  Once you find some, wrap a section of duct tape around your fingers, sticky side out, and press it to the egg cluster.  Pull the duct tape away, pealing the eggs with it, and use a new piece of tape for the next cluster you find.  I immediately drop the used tape and eggs into a garbage bag so that I don’t risk dropping any eggs back into the garden.  It’s important to stay on top of eliminating the egg clusters because you definitely don’t want to give them the opportunity to hatch, grow up and go on to lay more eggs.  It can become an overwhelming cycle.

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You don’t have to use a hand mirror, but I find it makes it quicker to scan the entire underside of the plant and I don’t risk damage to the stem from turning it this way and that.

Squash bug egg cluster

Squash Bug Egg Cluster

Above is a picture of an egg cluster on the back of a squash plant leaf.  I snipped off these leaves in order to get a good picture, so don’t let the photo be confusing.  You won’t be picking the leaves off like my picture, they’ll still be attached to the plant.  The tape method works really well with Flea Beetles also, since they’re extremely fast little buggers and jump before you can get them.

Squash Bug eggs removed using duct tape

Squash Bug Eggs Removed using Duct Tape

You can even see a few Flea Beetles that we caught with the tape.  Like I said earlier, you’ll still need to commit more time doing it this way than if you just sprayed for them, but we think it’s worth the time and the plants seem to know they’re getting lots of attention. 🙂

2 thoughts on “Chemical-Free Squash Bug Management

  1. Hi Melissa, I just put your hop on my outlook calendar yesterday to remind me to pop-in! You must’ve been feeling the vibes, haha! It seems like we’ve had more squash bugs this year too. Unfortunately the flea beetles are already moving in where we are. Ugh. 🙁

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