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

What are Squash Bugs?

Squash bugs can be the bane of a gardener’s existence! They are very difficult to manage and can cause a lot of havoc. Squash bugs are most commonly found on squash plants (hence the name) such as zucchini, winter squash, and pumpkins, but they may also affect other crops in the cucurbit family (like cucumbers, cantaloupe, and watermelon). 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 (yet 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 get rid of completely.
  • Pick egg masses off the plants in the morning and later in the day. One reader fills a vase with water and liquid dish soap 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

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Reader Comments

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squash bug control with neem oil spray and neem oil soil drench

I would like more detail on the 4TBS neem oil per gallon soil drench. Was it applied before or after squash bugs appeared? How often did you drench the soil under the plants? Is it also necessary to spray the undersides of the squash plant leaves daily ?

Any experience with using neem oil soil drench for over wintering squash bugs?

squash bug control with neem oil spray and neem oil soil drench

I would like more detail on the 4TBS neem oil per gallon soil drench. Was it applied before or after squash bugs appeared? How often did you drench the soil under the plants? Is it also necessary to spray the undersides of the squash plant leaves daily ?

Any experience with using neem oil soil drench for over wintering squash bugs?

Neem oil

I've been using Neem with excellent results for 2 years now. I get mine on Amazon or Ebay. The most important thing is to get 100% pure cold pressed Neem oil ...(and don't leave it sit out, the coons will get it all the first nite) not the most pleasant smelling stull but it works. I fill a gallon sprayer with water and add 4 Tbls. of Neem, 2 heaping Tbls of common baking soda (omit this if used on acid loving plants), and a good squirt of dish soap. Shake well before and even now and then during applications to keep the NEEM oil mixed well with the rest of the ingredients. The baking soda provides an added bonus against blights (early and late) and molds. It makes a alkaline environment on the surface where it's sprayed and those nasty pests can't colonize in it. It's important to start treatment before signs of squash bugs, blights, or molds appear and continue through the season. For blight and mold it will even stop it after you first notice it. If it looks like it's being a little rough on young plants cut the Neem by a half. I use this solution on several things in my garden that are troubled by pests.

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

The Editors's picture

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.

Squash bug home invaders

I do not understand why you keep discrediting people who say these pests are entering their homes. I have them and without a doubt they are squash bugs. They have destroyed my pumpkins 2 years in a row. Through the winter I will find a few on my house plants. This fall they have been sticking to my window screens and I just found one in my bedroom. When your garden is close to your house, they will find a way in looking for warmth.

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 Editors's picture

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!

spraying squash bugs and plants with soapy water

I heard this from an older lady who does it every year and wanted to get some additional comments on it. she sprays her plants down with dawn dish soap and water, has anyone tried this? and if so, was it successful?

Soapy Water for Squash Bugs

Hi, Clay! This type of solution has worked for other bugs like aphids, and there is some evidence that it could work for squash bugs. Try spraying with a mild solution of water and a few drops of dish soap. If that doesn’t work, check out some of our other tips above! Good luck!

squash bugs

Oh, how I loathe these bugs! I welcome predators into my garden, too--frogs, toads and praying mantis are all welcome there, as are my Icelandic chickens, who will eat the bugs off the plants.

how to determine the number

how to determine the number of pest killed in a plant

The soils that I've started

The soils that I've started my seedlings in is covered in mold! And remedies? I've read about the essential oils, but not sure of oil/water ratios.

mold...

The presence of molds usually indicates overwatering. If you think the seedlings will survive it, you could try to scrape off the mold. Definitely hold off on watering for a while. And when you do … mist, don’t pour.

Mold sometimes comes from poor/old/unsterile potting soil or unclean pots.

leaf leg bugs

every year i have leaf leg bugs on my pomegranate and they ruin the fruit is their a way to get rid of them with out poison my tree is about 15' and i dont want poison on it please can any body help

leaffooted plant bug on pomegranate

Leaffooted plant bugs especially like to feed on cracked fruit. To control the them on pomegranate, be sure to remove all cracked fruit. Also remove fruit and leaf debris before winter; the bugs will overwinter in them. There are natural parasites, but I don’t know if they are available commercially: Gryon pennsylvanicum (attacks the eggs) and a tachnid fly called Trichopoda pennipes. Handpick pests as you can (wear gloves, because they emit an odor). Remove eggs under leaves. Some gardeners protect their fruit by placing them in a muslin or cotton bag that prevents the bugs from accessing the fruit; this is better in drier climates, however. The bugs also like to overwinter in juniper, cyprus, or eucalyptus. Remove weedy areas, which is where the bugs feed when fruit is not available in winter or spring. Nymphs can be knocked out of the tree by gently shaking the branches; lay a white sheet below to catch them and dispose. Chickens can help control the bugs on the ground hiding in plant debris.

leaf leg bugs

Try spraying with a soapy water mixture of Dawn original and water 2 tsp dawn per 1 quart water on the bugs early morning and evening until gone. Do not spray in the heat of the day as it will tend to burn the leaves of plant. I have not tried on leaf bug but it works on many other bugs. This has been our life saver this year with squash bugs. Good luck!

squash worms

I had a beautiful spaghetti squash vine last year, as I got ready to pick the squash I noticed worms with gel like substance ozzing out of my squash, some knd of worm, how do I get rid if these pest naturally

squash pest

The Editors's picture

One of the most common squash pests is the beetle, but this does not sound like that. (The beetle has a triangle-shape “shield” on his back—but no gel. Yes, you know that.) 

It sounds like you are a victim of the squash borer. Take a look at the pics of it here and you’ll find several suggestions for eliminating or combatting it lower on the page: http://www.almanac.com/content/squash-vine-borer

Here’s a bit more; note especially the last paragraph and best last chance at keeping, maybe not saving, the plant: http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/insects/find/squash-vine-borers/

Slugs are famous for their gelatinous trail. Here is a little more on those: http://www.almanac.com/content/slugs

 

We hope this helps.

squash pest

The Editors's picture

One of the most common squash pests is the beetle, but this does not sound like that. (The beetle has a triangle-shape “shield” on his back—but no gel. Yes, you know that.) 

It sounds like you are a victim of the squash borer. Take a look at the pics of it here and you’ll find several suggestions for eliminating or combatting it lower on the page: http://www.almanac.com/content/squash-vine-borer

Here’s a bit more; note especially the last paragraph and best last chance at keeping, maybe not saving, the plant: http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/insects/find/squash-vine-borers/

Slugs are famous for their gelatinous trail. Here is a little more on those: http://www.almanac.com/content/slugs

 

We hope this helps.

Wet down leaves

I have had good luck controlling them by wetting down the leaves in the late morning. The squash bugs must not like getting wet because once I am done they run up to the top side of the leaves to dry off. I just pick them off into my cup of soapy water. Doing this allows me to see where the adults are at and then I can find the egg masses on those plants and remove with duct tape.

Great info in this piece. I

Great info in this piece. I too have found early detection and persistence to be key in controlling these bugs. I use a little butane torch on the egg masses and bugs. A small portion of the leaf will be burned but this method seems to work pretty well. I've had some very large and productive squash plants this year despite the presence of the bugs. I learned a lot, and next year will be even better I'm sure.

Very helpful info concerning

Very helpful info concerning the squash beetle. I believe burning all the infected plants at season's end will go along way to get rid of them next year. I do have wood raised beds, so I'll probably always have to do close inspection during squash season.

Thank you again for the solutions.

lpc

should i pick squash being

should i pick squash being eaten by squash bugs?

You can harvest mature squash

You can harvest mature squash that has been attacked by squash bugs. The squash should be safe to eat, as long as there are no rotten areas (which you'd want to cut out). If you have used an edible-crop-approved pesticide, be sure to read the label to determine the amount of time you need to wait until it is safe to harvest the crop; wash the squash thoroughly before eating.

I spent a better part of my

I spent a better part of my afternoon ridding my plants of squash bugs and eggs. I dropped the eggs and bugs in a bucket of soapy water. Unfortunately I knocked over the bucket in the garden with all the eggs and dead bugs.... Will the eggs still hatch? Im so mad right now. I lost all my pumpkins and squash plants to the pests last year I am on a mission to save them this year.

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