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

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.

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Reader Comments

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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

The Editors's picture

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 Editors's picture

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

The Editors's picture

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

The Editors's picture

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.

The eggs will probably not

The Editors's picture

The eggs will probably not hatch if they are not attached to a leaf. You can cover the area with cardboard or newspaper mulch or put some black plastic or landscape fabric down to be on the safe side.

I usually find clusters on

I usually find clusters on the underneath sides of the leaves in July. Today I checked my plants, the fruit is growing nicely, not big enough to pick, but I swear I see what looks like an egg here and there on the stems and the squash themselves. Nothing on the leaves though and the 'eggs' I see are not in clusters. Are these eggs??

You can tell by the color.

The Editors's picture

You can tell by the color. Squash bug eggs are copper colored. We've added a better picture to this page for you. 

I have an Apricot tree that

I have an Apricot tree that produces loads of very sweet apricots, --- but every year we find that most of them have eaten spots about 1/8" to 3/8" in diameter. The first year I built a 10ft cage with 3/4" netting to keep the birds out, we got the same eaten spots. This year I changed the netting to 3/8"and had the same problem. Yesterday my wife found several large gray bugs feasting on the fruit, they look just like your photos of squash bugs. Has anybody out there had the same problem ,And if so have you found a solution? Thanks

Squash bugs are a type of

The Editors's picture

Squash bugs are a type of "true bug." Although they are not known to attack apricots, there are lookalike true bugs that do, such as various types of stink bugs. They may cause catfacing (corky areas) and deformed fruit. For more information, see:
http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/...
http://www.ent.uga.edu/peach/p...
http://fruitandnuteducation.uc...
http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/crea...
http://www.ladybug.uconn.edu/f...
 For other apricot pests, see:
http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG...
http://utahpests.usu.edu/ipm/h...

Why are these bugs in my

Why are these bugs in my house. I find them all the time on tv screen and many different rooms in my house.

Squash bugs and stink bugs

The Editors's picture

Squash bugs and stink bugs may invade homes in the fall as they look for a warm place to shelter during the winter. They may cluster in attics, walls, etc.
Other lookalikes, such as pine seed bugs, can accidentally come into the home as well during the late summer etc, as they bask in the sun on the south side of buildings.
To deter these bugs, seal up cracks around windows, doors, foundations.

I use duct tape to remove

I use duct tape to remove both bugs and egg clusters. I have had a terrible problem as I've mulched leaves directly into my garden for years. Once I started my morning rounds with duct tape the zucchini started to flourish.

The squash bugs destroyed the

The squash bugs destroyed the squash and zucchini before moving on to my watermelons and killing those vines. So once everything is cleaned up and vines destroyed, will using the soapy water kill any eggs and bugs left at end of season? And can the same thing be repeated before planting crops in the spring?

You did the right thing in

The Editors's picture

You did the right thing in cleaning up the infected plants but these pests might be back again.  Single (unlated) bugs overwinter under plant debris, then in spring find a mate and start again, leaving eggs on the underside of leaves. A very cold winter could be your relief; they are more likely to survive mild winters.
Neem and horticultural oil and other soap products have been indentified as control agents but good penetration is needed. Consult a local nurseryman for product.
If they show up again, the Colorado extension recommends early season treatment with diatomaceous earth and or pyrethrins, as organic methods.
Next season, consider resistant varieties, rotation to non-cucurbit crops, and/or row covers (these help to keep the bugs from landing on your plants).
Here is further advice, from Utah's coop extenstion (useful in any location): https://extension.usu.edu/file...

Plant dill with your squash -

Plant dill with your squash - or tear some off a plant and put it next to the squash and repeat every week or so. Didn't get any squash til last year - first year I started using the dill. All the plants died the many years before after setting fruit and it getting pretty far along. Now I'm the "squash lady". We give away wheel barrow after wheel barrow of squash - I'm planting much less next year. The dill is pretty much gone by now but the plants are big and healthy (last of August); if they all died now I would consider the year a phenomenal success. I am going to start planting a row of dedicated dill from now on every month or so - buy the dill seed in bulk from the coop ("hippie grocery store").

The bed bugs are blood

The bed bugs are blood suckers, which keep away your sleep during the night. You cannot just get rid of them overnight, but would require competent natural based bed bug treatment products. You can do things on your own by placing the order online and treat this menace on your own.The www.hygeanatural.com helps us for all this problems.

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