Friday, April 4, 2008

Prehistoric Monsters Squash Bugs

I confess.... I'm a little scared of squash bugs.



These ugly dudes totally destroyed my zucchini plant in 2005, positively laughing at my spray bottle of soapy water the whole time. I hated them. Hated them. And back then, I didn't even know what they were.

Now I know that they're one of the toughest garden pests to kill, even if you stoop to nasty chemicals. The answer is prevention and determination.

As one of the top rules of pest control is to never plant a crop you had trouble with in the same place the following year or two (the creepy crawlies could be hibernating!), I went the extreme route and swore off all cucurbits in 2006. In 2007, I ventured a cucumber plant on my front porch instead of out back. Now, I have two healthy looking cucumber seedlings in the garden out back. Cucumbers aren't the squash bug's #1 snack option, but I still view this as a bit of a test. Can I hold them off??? If so, I'll consider zucchini and pumpkins again next year.

And fortunately, many of the measures to be taken against squash bugs are also to be taken against cucumber beetles. My plan of action:

  1. Protect them while they're young. I currently have soda pop cloches over the seedlings, and I'll see if I might be able to cover them with a hanging plastic sheet once the trellis is in.
  2. Surround the cucumbers with plants the bugs dislike. There are already radishes sharing the same square feet as the cucumbers, and I'll grow a pot of marigolds or two to put just outside their section of the garden.
  3. Be obsessive. Especially while they're young, I'll check under their leaves every day for anything that looks like a bug or an egg. Catch the scout and you may prevent the rest of the invasion.
  4. Trap crop. If I do end up with the dreaded bugs, then I'll buy a squash plant and put it nearby. With any luck, those suckers will move on to what they view as greener pastures and I can hand pick (with gloves!) what's left.... and then they'll all go bye-bye into the trash bin.

Ugh! Really, they look like little prehistoric monsters! *shudder*


Mick said...

Hi Elizabeth
I've used a "Soapy Water and Garlic Recipe" mixture to some success in the past, just don't be downwind when you use it as it's pretty awful if you breathe it in. Still, think what it must be like for the bugs :-)
I'll post it on my blog if you like so you can give it a try.
Strange but last year I had quite a number of stink bugs on my tomato plants and they didn't seen to be doing any harm? I hand picked 'em as I found 'em and things progressed well.
Personally, I'm waiting for the Blister Beetles to arrive, as per usual. Now they realy DO give me a hard time. :-(

BPD in OKC said...

oh god i'm so scared of squash bugs. you're not alone

Elizabeth said...

I've heard garlic makes it a stronger spray, Mick. I'll have to try that. Thanks!

Bpd, I believe anyone with a decent level of primal survival instincts should be afraid of those ugly little monsters!