Squash Bugs

How to Identify and Get Rid of Squash Bugs

squash-bugs-pests

The squash bug is sometimes confused with a stink bug, but it can cause much more damage to your plants.

Barbara Pleasant

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What are those bugs on your squash? Here are tips on how to identify, control, and get rid of squash bugs in your garden.

What are Squash Bugs?

Squash bugs are the bane of a gardener’s existence! They are very difficult to kill and can cause a lot of havoc. Squash bugs are most commonly found on squash plants (hence the name), but they also often appear on pumpkins. Their damage is limited to the cucurbit family. Other pests that are commonly found on squash include squash vine borers.

Squash bugs are often mistaken for stink bugs, as they are similar in appearance and both have a foul odor when squashed. However, stink bugs are wider and rounder than squash bugs.

Identification

How to Identify Squash Bugs

The squash bug is fairly large (over ½-inch long) with a brownish or gray body and flat back. The edges and undersides of the abdomen have orange stripes. They are able to fly, but they often simply walk around on plants. Young squash bugs, or squash bug nymphs, are gray and have black legs. They move quickly and often in groups on the undersides of leaves.

squash-bug-nymphs.jpg
Photo Credit: University of Massachusetts Amherst. Newly-hatched squash bug nymphs are small with black legs and move around in groups.

Squash bugs overwinter in your dead leaves, vines, under boards, and even in buildings. They fly to garden plants to mate as soon as vines start forming, and they lay egg masses on the undersides of the leaves. You’ll find adults beneath damaged leaves and near the plant crown.

adult-squash-bug-identiication
Photo Credit: University of Delaware Cooperative Extension. Squash bugs lay small brown eggs on the undersides of leaves.

Squash Bug Damage

These bugs inject a toxin into the plant and suck the sap right out of it with their sharp, sucking mouthparts. This causes yellow spots that eventually turn brown. The leaves will wilt because the damage prevents the flow of nutrients to the leaves, and then they will dry up and turn black, crisp, and brittle. The leaves also sometimes have ragged holes. Smaller plants will die, and squash bug feeding can decimate young fruit.

The wilting can resemble bacterial wilt, which is a disease spread by cucumber beetles (another squash pest), so be sure to find the bugs or eggs and identify them correctly.

Control and Prevention

How to Get Rid of Squash Bugs

  • Early detection is critical! You want to catch squash bugs before they grow into adults or they are very difficult to kill.
  • Pick egg masses off the plants in the morning and later in the day. One reader fills a vase with water and liquid detergent and flicks the squash bugs into the water. Once the bugs are dead, it’s fine to dump the water anywhere. You can also simply scrape the eggs off the leaves with a butter knife and let them fall onto the ground, where beetles will eat them. Eggs hatch in about ten days, so be sure to check for them on at least a weekly basis.
  • Place a board or shingle in the garden at night. During the night, both adults and nymphs will congregate underneath the board. Squash between two hard surfaces in the morning and dispose.
  • Insecticides (such as carbaryl/Sevin) are most effective if applied when eggs are hatching. See your local garden center or cooperative extension service for controls that are locally approved.
  • Keep checking your plants, at least daily. If there are no more than a few vines infected, keep collecting and destroying the bugs and crushing the egg clusters that you find on the undersides of leaves.

Squash bugs on pumpkin

How to Prevent Squash Bugs

  • Prevention is key: In the fall, be sure to burn or compost old squash vines to rid your garden of any possible shelters for breeding and over-wintering.
  • Avoid deep, cool mulches like straw or hay that provide an environment that these bugs seem to love.
  • Practice crop rotation.
  • Consider keeping vines covered until blossoming begins. Remove the cover for pollination needs. There is only one generation of squash bugs per year, and you can avoid them by covering your plants for the first month of spring. You can also delay planting your squash until the early months of summer.
  • Companion planting can be useful in repelling squash bugs. Try planting nasturtium and tansy around your plants that are commonly affected by squash bugs.
  • Select varieties of squash that are resistant to the squash bug if you have a big problem. ‘Butternut’, ‘Royal Acorn’, and ‘Sweet Cheese’ varieties are all more resistant to squash bugs.

Plants Affected

Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

squash bug or kissing bug?

How do you tell the difference between a squash bug and triatominae? The one I photographed was mostly yellow, not so much brown as squash bug...

squash bugs

I placed plastic bowls between each plant, in them I put some water and a little squirt of dish soap. The next day each bowl had a squash bug or bugs. I changed the water every other day. I made up a quart of squeezed garlic, with cayenne pepper, Tbsp, maybe, just dumped it in, and a squeeze of dish soap. Poured that around the stem every other day. Bug are essentially gone. Found a couple small deposits of eggs, but not the dozens that would be here by now. I'm checking for eggs every other day. The adult bugs are dead in the soap water. But our season is just getting going. I see below someone used Neem oil and I'm going to add that.

squash bugs

I didn't add to fill the quart with water after putting in the garlic and cayenne and soap.

squash bugs

Was wondering if anyone has had any luck using diatomaceous earth on plants, eggs, adults and whatever? Thanks

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth (DE) will kill squash bug adults and nymphs, but because it will need to be applied to the leaves and stems of plants to be effective, there’s also a chance that it will kill pollinators, like bees and butterflies, as well as other beneficial insects, like ladybugs. If you do apply it to plants, apply it in the early morning or late evening and avoid applying it on or near flowers.

If I cut the leaves that have

If I cut the leaves that have a few eggs on them will that harm the overall plant??

Cutting Leaves

Removing an entire leaf would be overkill; it’s better to just squish the eggs. Cutting the leaves could expose the plant to viruses and mold.

I have tried the Diatomaceous

I have tried the Diatomaceous Earth & for the most part it did work. However I just checked on my plants today & the little buggers seemed to lay eggs on the belly of a few leaves. I will try again. I also did not know if I cut the leaves that had the eggs on them & then dusted if that would be effective too???

DE for Squash bugs

I have used DE for these bugs. It does not work on adults or eggs just the nymphs that have thin skins. The de will scratch the shell of the bug and dehydrate them, You must reapply after it rains,

"Squash bugs" please help!

I've found bugs and eggs on my gourd plants. I'm not sure if they're squash bugs even though the description seems to match the pictures vary slightly. The adults I'm finding are black in the front and back with orange on the outter mid section of the bug. The eggs are mostly under the leaves but not always. There seems to be tons of dark green eggs as well as some lighter cream colored which are almost white. Please help me identify these critters so I can try to get rid of them! I wish I could share a picture here of what I've found! Thank you.

Killing Squash bugs

I do something I have never seen mentioned as a way to kill squash bugs. I spray the plants and ground thoroughly. Then I wait a couple of minutes. The squash bugs begin climbing to the top of the leaves--I assume to get dry. Wearing gloves I simply squash the bugs and lay them out for a "body count." By the time I get to one end of the plants, more bugs have climbed to the top of the other end. I repeat going down the row until there are no more bugs. If I have time, I soak the ground and plants again just to make sure. It worked until I missed a day, then the plants suffered.

squash bug control

For the most part, we control squash bugs by putting the hose down in the hole of the plastic and forcing them to the top of the plastic with the water. We hand pick them off the plants and kill them and their eggs. Now, after reading what everyone else is doing though, we are going to plant ALL of our winter squash in a different place and rotate each year. We are NOT going to use black plastic Also, I think putting a couple of boards down around by the plants makes sense to get squash bugs to get under them at night and kill them the next morning. Insecticide doesn't work very well, but it will seep into the plants/fruits and then our bodies and we know that it is wreaking havoc on humans!!! :(

Squash Bugs

This is exactly what has been invading my garden the latter part of the summer/early fall. Not only have I seen them in my zucchini plants, but also they invaded my greenhouse and they literally sucked the life out of many of my tomatoes. They appeared to be laying eggs in them. (Yuk!) We have had a garden for a few years now and never had this happen before. We are in Southern Oregon and now that the overnight temperatures have dipped to the low 40s, the bugs are finally gone. I have so many zucchini/squash plants, they were unable to take them over, thankfully.

Squash bugs on 1st and 2nd floor house screens

I have never had this happen before. I am getting what appear to be squash bugs attaching themselves to my first and second floor screens. I have researched every bug and these definitely look like squash bugs with the body shape and color, and not stink bugs. I have been flicking them off the screens and when on a window ledge spray them with hair spray. Has anyone else experienced this, or can tell me why this is occurring. I am from the far northwest side of Chicago.

Squash bugs

We have the same problem here in south central New York. They are trying to find a way into the house to hibernate for the winter. They are very annoying.

Sqash bugs

I have found the same problem! On my screens and windows. Now finding inside windows on 2nd floor. Been living here for 10 years never seen these bugs before

Squash bugs

Forgot to mention I'm from Green Bay WI...

bugs in the home

Are you positive it’s a squash bug? Some house pests such as the Western Conifer Seed Bug resemble squash bugs.

Either way, it’s important to look around your home for any tiny gaps around pipes, pipes and electrical lines, vents, overhangs, and foundation. Where are they coming from? Then seal or caulk all those gaps.

In the fall, spray the exterior of your home with an approved insecticide. Speak to your state’s local cooperative extension to see what’s approved. You might need to consult with a professional pest control.

If they’re in your home, vacuum up the bugs or spray them with a dish soap/water solution and sweep them up.

Killing adult squash bugs

I have tried EVERY remedy imaginable for killing or repelling (adult) squash bugs, and NONE of them has ever worked. I am convinced that all of the home remedies out there are a waste of time.

Immature squash bugs are easy to kill, but the adult bugs (which are the ones that show up first), are a different story.

Checking each vine daily, and physically removing (and smashing) the bugs and eggs by hand (or duct tape) DOES help, but you never find them all, and this becomes very time-consuming as the plants get larger. And if you ever have to skip checking for a day or two, you are likely to find your plants dead when you return. Picking the bugs off by hand has never been a good solution for me.

Having said that, I HAVE found a way to get plenty of squash. The ONLY thing that has worked for me is to plant 2 or 3 times more squash plants than I really want. Yes, the squash bugs WILL still eventually kill them all, but not all at once. So, if you plant extra plants, AND check for bugs as often as you can, you can probably get all of the squash that you want. For me, that means planting 15 plants or so, instead of the 5 or 6 plants that I REALLY want.

To save space (since I don’t really WANT to plan 15 squash plants!), I plant them between my sweet corn rows, and the squash plants seem to like that just fine. I think they actually do a little better there, than in the full Kansas sun.

For those that are interested, here are the many failed squash bug remedies that I have tried over the years.
• I have tried spraying the plants regularly with Sevin (and every other pesticide).
Sevin and other over-the-counter pesticides are totally ineffective against the adult squash bug. But I still tried. I used liquid spray on top AND undersides of leaves, and generously on the main stalk. I used Sevin dust to cover the ground around the plants. And I have sprayed the bugs directly. Nothing would kill the adult bugs.
• I have tried spraying the bugs with a mixture of dish soap and water.
This did not bother the bugs at all.
• I have tried placing boards around the base of the plants, as I have read that the bugs will hide there, making them easier to find and kill.
I have seen many online sources suggest this, but I have found it to be totally ineffective. A healthy squash plant will get fairly large, and their long vines and large leaves make it very easy for the bugs to hide. I have seen the bugs circle around a stalk to hide as I look around the plant. With mulch around the plants, the bugs can pretty much hide anywhere, and usually NOT under the boards. I even tried NOT using mulch, but that did not help.
• I have heard from MANY sources that marigolds will repel squash bugs.
As far as I can tell, squash bugs are completely unfazed by marigolds. I planted marigolds around the outside of my entire garden, and planted them all around and amongst the squash plants. TOTALLY INEFFECTIVE. I will say that there are many varieties of marigolds, and I have not tried them all. I think this remedy is a waste of your time, unless someone can tell you exactly which type of marigold repels squash bugs (and even then, I would be skeptical). I still have marigolds in my garden just because my family likes them.
• I've been told that using cedar wood chips as a mulch around the plant will repel squash bugs and keep them away.
This was also totally ineffective.
• I have tried tying the squash vines to a wire fence (to get the leaves and vines off of the ground).
Unlike cucumbers and other vining plants, the squash vines are just too heavy and cumbersome for this to work well. I'm not sure it would help even if I COULD get the plants to grow on a fence, or that it would be good for the plant.
• I have tried forcing the plants to grow inside a tomato cage, again to try and keep the leaves and vines off of the ground.
This did make it a little easier for me to find/see the bugs, but I'm not sure it was really healthy for the plant, and I still lost most of my plants before they produced a single squash. I have to declare this solution a total failure as well.
• I have tried crop rotation--planting the squash in a different location in the garden each year.
Totally ineffective against squash bugs (although still a good idea, in general).
• I have tried skipping growing squash for a year.
Squash bugs reappeared as soon as I started planting squash again.
• I have tried REDUCING the number of plants to just a few, so that I could more easily manage checking for bugs on a daily basis.
I just could not catch enough of them soon enough to prevent damage and death of the plants. I sometimes could not check every single day.
• I always remove and burn the dead squash plants immediately when they die.
Still a good idea, even though it has never helped my squash bug problem.

Squash Bugs

I'm with you on tried everything! I even planted my zuccini in a wagon & moving it 1 or 2 times a day, FAR!!! Nope, they followed. So I pay $1.49 per pound, for the same squash l grew out west at a rate I supplied the whole extended family.

Squash bug

Can plant squash in fall. No bugs

Vances comment 'I have tried everything'

Vance,
I am so glad someone said this - these home remedies make people feel good and are repeated endlessly on forums, but unless you have just one or two sickly squash plants, the idea of picking off eggs and adults is absolutely ludicrous. A single healthy squash plant will spread for 6 or 8 feet and have hundreds of leaves. I can find eggs anywhere I look. It would take hours to go over all the leaves and the adults would probably lay them faster than I could find them all. And I have not seen a single adult yet - they hide very well. I started using Ortho Max L&G Insect Killer with bifenthrin a couple of years ago and it is the solution for me (new product seems to be BubBGone Insect Killer). Sevin sounds good but does not work. I hate using chemicals in the garden but I am tired of growing winter squash and having it all eaten up by squash bugs, and the plants get sicker and sicker by late summer if not treated. I have grown more and more as you suggest, but I get few good squash by late Fall and hundreds of pounds of damaged ones. I feel spraying early in the season will kill squash bugs and borers and leave little residue by Fall when I harvest.
My two cents!

killing squash bugs

I've found an effective solution for killing the squash bugs. Doctor Bronner's eucalyptus soap. You have to be careful about the dilution. You don't want it too stringent or you will damage the plant. When you see bugs, spray the solution on them. They will be dead in 30 seconds, trust me. Just die on the spot, especially the smaller ones. (If you can see the big ones, squash them by hand.) In order to be careful about the plants, I water the leaves I've sprayed after the bugs are dead in order to get the solution off the leaves.
If you've got a big infestation, you'll have to do this regularly. But it kills them dead, as the Raid can says.

Squash bugs

I just pulled out my zucchini plants because they’re basically dead and infested. I got one zucchini. One. And it has weird rough bumpy skin. I’m not even sure I want to eat it. I tried horticulture oil, scraped bugs into a cup of dawn and water, scraped off eggs with a butter knife, stomped on adults. I didn’t try and insecticide because I’m trying hard to be organic. But right now I’m so upset and disgusted by these bugs that if I had Napalm I’d use it. I did have weed fabric down to act as a barrier from weeds and keep moisture in but after learning that the squash bugs hide under it and possibly will over winter under it; I pulled it out. I barely have any tomatoes also; the plants are brown on the bottom but seem like the tops are ok. I’m not sure what else to do to kill the squash bugs that are left behind in the dirt. I’m hoping they’ll die now that there’s no more squash plant to feed them. I’m going to clean out the garden and look into some sort of way to eradicate what’s left in the soil eggs nymphs and what ever else can be lurking in there. I’d light the whole thing up if it wasn’t so close to the house!

Brown spots on tomatoes

Your brown spots on tomatoes are blossom end rot. Plants need calcium. You can get a Blossom end rot spray to correct. When I plant tomatoes in the spring I stick 3 Tums in the hole and I never have blossom end rot anymore.

I read to put down black plastic to cover your garden bed. Leave it for 2 weeks and the heat under there is supposed to kill bugs and weeds. I am going to try this. Need to research some more.

Cover the plants.

What are you suggesting to cover the plants with until the blossoming begins? You say plant the squash till later at the beginning of summer meaning late May or early June! Will that give sufficient time for the squash to mature? I find that once the squash has finished they move to the cucumbers.

Pumpkin deth

Ugh last night I had a beautiful lush pumpkin plant . Went outside to water and it was wilted and dead!???I have other squash and melons that are beautiful close to the dead one that so far unaffected? ? I pulled it up and found some squash bugs and eggs when removing it.could it be possible for the insects to kill it over night? ?????

Pumpkin Vine

Hi William,

It’s not likely that squash bugs would kill your pumpkin plant overnight. However, it could be that the vine had a squash vine borer in it, which would kill it quickly. Go here to read more https://www.almanac.com/pest/squash-vine-borer#comment-80153.

 

Squash Bug fighting

Found an exciting way to remove squash bugs; connected a narrow tube on to a shop vac with an inch or two of soapy water at the bottom, worked like a charm

Shop Vac squash bugs

I am going to try this tomorrow. Squash bugs just killed all my zucchini and yellow squash, and have moved on to the cucumbers. Over my dead body will they get my cucumbers!!!!!

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