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 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???

"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 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.

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

feedback

I disagree that there is one generation per year of squash bugs. I typically fight them all summer, and even if I kill them and they disappear for a time, they return each time after a few days. They also get on butternut squash.

Getting rid of squash bugd

Yes, most assuredly, squash bugs are "the enemy", but, to my minds eye, so is commercial pesticides (seven and the like). For the last 3 years (this is the 4th) I have been using neem oil on my squash. So far, the bugs are gone and the plants live and produces abundant amounts of produce. I hope this year is no different. I have also used neem on the grapes, cabbage and cauliflower (works fabulously on the worms that invade them), and the little light green afids on the fruits trees. The Neem did not work on the black acids much to my dismay.

Black aphids-gnats

Try soil drenching with neem 4tsp/gal works everytime doesnt hurt beneficials

squash bugs

where do you find neem oil and how do you apply it

Definate squash bugs inside house

Marjorie, I have both squash bugs and boxelder beetles in my house - ick! My exterminator friend told me that they both find a warm spot in the house when it gets cold outside and in the warmer whether, come out any way they can.......how do they get through into my living room or bedroom??? I have been killing 1-2 of them almost every day for the last month. We have an ancient house and can't possibly find/fix every tiny entry point but we do as much as possible to maintain and restore our home. I think it's just something we have to put up with for a while.

Squash bugs in my hgome

I've been getting squash bugs in my bedroom, mainly, for the past couple of months. They arrive one at a time, 2 or 3 days a week, which I easily kill since they don't move, but I can't get rid of them -- one arrived yesterday after I thought I'd done the job by closing off the floor register, which I assume was how they got in. I don't even have a garden, nor do any of my neighbors so I don't know where they're coming from. What can I do?

Bugs about the house

Hi, Marjorie, We are thinking that the invaders are not squash bugs but may be a lookalike bug called a Boxelder. (We had never heard of it either.) These pests that can wreak havoc on fruit trees and whose main source of food is—can you guess?—the box elder tree, seek warmth in the off season—and that’s why they are coming into your home. (Do you have fruit trees or are they some nearby?? How about box elm? No matter; these critters can fly several blocks.) The general advice is to seal cracks in walls, doors, basement windows, and vents, etc., and make sure that screens are intact. You are on to the right idea about the floor register, but the bugs are getting into your house before you see them in the register. Eliminate leaf and other debris from around the house; that gives the bugs a place to hide. These nasties do not like water, so you can hose them to eliminate them (do this outdoors; this is not recommended indoors). BTW, insecticide sprays are no more effective than the hose and the vacuum, so investing in chemicals is not worth the money.

As noted, while neither you nor your neighbors have gardens, someone (or ones) nearby have some plants that must be attracting and “hosting” these bugs. And it occurs to us: Are your neighbors also being invaded? It doesn’t seem right—morally or naturally—that you should be the sole victim.

We hope this helps!

Your Bugs

Your bugs are probably marmorated stink bugs and not really squash bugs, they look similar,fit the profile you described and aren't really associated with the garden at all.

What bug produces 1000s of

What bug produces 1000s of small black eggs then a green caterpillar emerges.. sfter that they cocoon themselves under my pumpkin leaves and eventually turn dark brown. I killes about 700 of these things by hand already and I just noticed the caterpillars eating my biggest pumpkin that is not even green yet.. damage is minimal but will it survive? So annoyed with these bugs.. thanks guys

What's eating my raspberry plants

Hi, I was reading above and the bug that is munching on my raspberry plants almost looks like a squash bug except it is golden yellow in color. Help me identify this bug please so I can kill it. I live in Wpg.Mb. Canada if that helps. Thank u

bug ID

The adult raspberry fruitworm is a light-brown beetle which munches on leaves and buds; larvae feed on the fruit and buds. However, it is a little late for them to appear–they are usually come out in spring or early summer as adults. Another pest of raspberries is the tarnished plant bug (nymph can be a bright green), although I haven’t heard of a golden type. There are several species of plant bugs similar to squash bugs. Perhaps if you showed a sample to a local garden center, they might be able to identify it for you. Good luck!

 

http://www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture/crops/production/fruit-crops/print,rasp...

Squash bugs

I had lots and lots of squash on my butternut squash!

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