Squash Bug Menace!

June 30th, 2010

They’re heeeeeeeerrrrrrrreeeeee!


I have squash bugs.

Everywhere.

Ev.

Ree.

Where.

I figured I would get them as last year’s cucumbers suffered a late season attack that obliterated the entire crop in a matter of days. I didn’t really mind though, because by then, I was sick of cucumbers. But I knew that the bugs would overwinter, so I moved my cucumber patch to the other side of the garden and began to regularly dose my garden with some preventative homemade garlic spray.  Unfortunately, I made the mistake of planting some pumpkins very near to last year’s cucumber spot, not realizing  that squash bugs like pumpkins EVEN MORE than cucumbers.  It’s their favorite!  So this Spring, they crawled out of the ground and found a lovely condo with a gorgeous view and a loaded fridge next door!

I could have done more to limit the overwintering impact of these horrible bugs.  I should have removed the old vines from my garden last Fall, instead of waiting until this Spring.  Ultimately, I think I might skip cucurbit type crops next year (pumpkins, squash, cucumbers) and see if I can get the squash bugs to pack up and go in search of someone else’s pumpkin patch.  In the meantime, here are a few of the methods that I have employed to get rid of them.

_____________________________________________________________________________

Melt Them and Vigilance…

I got down on my hands and knees and looked for the bugs. I got familiar with my garden on a new level. Instead of just looking at it from above, I looked at it from below and behind, beside and underneath.  I parted vines and moved leaves.  I searched and scanned the nooks and crannies. During my searches, I noted a few cucumber beetles, their yellow and black ‘plumage’ undeniable.  When I found them, I went out and bought some neem oil as cucumber beetles laugh in the face of my homemade garlic spray.  The neem oil is also supposedly a deterrent for squash bugs too as they don’t like the taste and it also breaks down their exoskeleton.  Basically, it melts them.

Soak Your Elbow in Windex…

I have been spraying the neem oil once a week in a concoction of my own design which is basically a tablespoon of neem, a tablespoon of garlic oil and a few squirts of dish-soap. I mix this all in a ‘Glass Plus” container hoping for whatever residual effects might be in the infamous window cleaner bottle as I distinctly remember the scene in My Greek Wedding where the protagonist’s father is soaking his elbow in a bowl of Windex while insisting that the magic blue liquid is a cure-all for everything.  (I do realize that Glass Plus is no Windex, but surely there is some overlap in the miracle producing qualities of the two cleaners.)

Handpick, Shudder, Handpick, Shudder…

I’ve also been ‘handpicking’ the bugs. A disgusting part of my job as a gardener whereby I hunt around for these wretched grayish bugs and pick them off (using a leaf as a sort of glove) and then I squish them inside the leaf, shudder violently and fling the flattened bug and leaf away in a sort of panicked induced delirium. Then I shudder again (violently), grimace and wonder how the hell I ever got myself into this horrifying predicament.  Then I find another bug and squish, fling, find, squish, fling, find.  It is an endless cycle of horror, recovery and horror again, further proving my theory that gardening is only for the mentally unstable.

Room and BOARD!

I put some old boards down in the pumpkin and squash patch as squash bugs like to congregate underneath things.  It makes the find part of the whole ‘find, squish, fling’ thing a little easier.

Go for the Twofer…

They mate back to back… or rather… end to end. One bug has to walk backwards while the other walks forwards with their two ‘tails’ attached. I don’t know which bug is which…who gets to move forward while the other gets dragged behind and I honestly don’t care. I only know that killing two squash bugs at the same time due to the fact that they are connected by their butts is a total bonus. Evidently, squash bugs like to mate around 3:00 in the afternoon (Is that when all the kids are down for naps?) so if I venture out to the garden at that time, I will probably be more likely to get more ‘twofers’ for my efforts.

Flood Their Homes…

I lay a garden hose at the base of my squash plants and the pooling water causes the squash bugs to climb to higher ground.  This allows me to find, squish and shudder a bit easier.

Blow the little suckers up!

I also have been removing any leaves that have eggs on them. Sometimes I remove the entire leaf, and sometimes I tear off the segment with the eggs on it. I give the leaves to the boys and tell them to destroy them. They happily take the leaves over to the driveway and find new and inventive ways to blow the eggs up with their fireworks stash. I also smash the leaves into oblivion with my feet, drown them in cups of water and hurl them into the pond.

Occasionally at the end of a squash bug patrol, I am so sick of it all, that I just start smashing the eggs with my bare thumb.  Then I wonder what I am turning into?  Some sort of callous, indelicate human that can smash insect eggs with her bare skin and not even flinch?  What is happening to me?  What if there comes a point where I can pick up a squash bug without a leaf?  What if I start smashing squash bugs with my bare fingers?  What happens next?  Do I cease to use a napkin at dinner?  Do I start drinking milk straight from the jug placing the empty container back in the fridge?  Do I pile old magazines in the bathroom in place of toilet paper?  What kind of madness is this?  Then I start flinching and stammering and my eyelid starts to spasm and my teeth start to ache and I rush into the house and take a scalding shower and rinse myself off in industrial bleach and suddenly I feel much better.

_________________________________________________________________

I am far from winning the war on these bugs.  But I am determined to give it my best shot.

Squash bugs are stealthy, impervious, they multiply like rabbits and are hard to kill with anything other than squashing them.

And they stink when you squash them.

On the other hand, I am stubborn, angry, bitter, and generally hacked off.

And I smell like industrial bleach.

I think these bugs have met a worthy adversary.

We’ll see who wins.

Some kind of spider sucks the head off of a squash bug.

Yay some kind of spider!

Comments

  • Kait:

    Ugh. Oh gross. Now I need a shower. Good luck in your war. Bugs may have there uses but sometimes they just seem useless.

    I killed off a plant on the weekend. I still have pangs. It did not have bugs but it had taken over my bedroom dresser and it was not pretty. It was once beautiful and full and lovely. Then it went leggy and dusty and icky. I tried to untangle it, I tried to dust around it. I tried. I really did. I ran the risk of going mad. So I just couldn’t take it anymore and out it went. I am sure the nightmares will stop soon…

  • Kait:

    I know. I know. There. Their. Typo? Oops.

  • See…that’s why I don’t eat fruits and vegetables. Who knows what’s been crawling all over them. Ewww! I’ll stick to completely synthetic food.

  • Yuck, yuck, yuck! What is next? Will you begin wearing a scarf around your head all the time & dancing around your filthy house after leaving a loaf of bread & cat food in the attic for your raccoon pets?!?!

    (As you may deduce, I just saw “Grey Gardens” for the first time – thanks for the recommendation!)

    P.S. You said “Ree” ;) Right there! Below the 1st photo!

  • Ann:

    Rechelle,
    Sorry about the cucumber loss. Because…its one of the main ingredients in my Mango Salsa recipe. Which will work well with you new chips and salsa diet—that I happen to be on as well! Yeah us! Real Quick…1 red onion, 1 mango, 1 cucumber, 1 jalapeno pepper and 2 TBL lime juice. Grind, chill and serve!
    Enjoy,
    Ann

  • **shudder** … it’s funny how quickly we harden and loose emotions isn’t it??
    Good luck with the battle..I did the same one year with slugs … I was out every night with the salt shaker … they were not getting my hostas!!

  • JJ:

    Will they eat zucchini? SOMETHING is eating my zucchini!!! But I don’t SEE anything. I thought zucchini was one of the most prolific stinkin’ plants on the planet? Everyone always has a TON of zucchini and I can’t get one itty bitty freakin’ zucchini!!!!!
    Sorry, gardener nervous break down…

  • susan:

    What is the temperature when you are out at 3:00 squishing, flinging, shuddering? I guess here in humid Texas I would have to be really driven – which obviously you are with this task – to be out and about doing that. Walking across the parking lot at that hour takes perserverence and you brace yourself for the impending horror of heat that emanates from the cement/asphalt. When living in a city and there is minimal permeable surface the heat ramps up unbearably.

    Bottom line: You are funny Rechelle the way you paint your experiences.

  • DirtyKSmama - Nikki:

    Being from western Wash. State, squash bugs were new to us. Now I’m WAY too familiar with them after gardening here for 3 years. You forgot to mention that their disgusting guts are bright green, like the vines they love, when you squish them after their meal. Ewww! I HATE them! I have wasted hours of my life hunting and squishing them and scraping their eggs.

    But I have found a solution this year. 1) Buy you seeds early and place in a cute basket on your kitchen counter. 2) Prepare beautiful garden beds as soon as possible and wait until the appropriate time to plant. 3) Get completely overwhelmed with excessive rains and family obligations and let weeds take over the garden. 4) Say “Screw it, I don’t have time to pull all those weeds this year, and I KNOW who’s going to end up hunting disgusting squash bugs. Me!” 5) Leave seeds in basket in kitchen. 6) Get cucumbers from father-in-law’s garden, and buy pumpkins at local family pumpkin patch. 7) Try again next year after enjoying one year without squash bug guts.

  • Yay for the spider! I seem to have tons of spiders running around in my garden, but they don’t seem to be putting up much of a fight against the cuke bugs. And why are the cuke bugs eating my green bean plants?!? They’re supposed to be eating my cuke plants! At least I know to look for them there! And you’re right. The garlic spray? Doing me absolutely no good. I’m about to go hardcore before I have zero garden left. And picking them off isn’t working either. I’m too busy slapping away all the damn skeeters that have sprung up from the flood of rain we had this spring. Good freaking grief. You’re right, it’s almost enough to drive a gardener insane. Please pass the industrial bleach.

  • Kiara:

    That was a disgusting post. Why did I read the whole thing? I can’t stand bugs; I hate them with a passion. But I can’t kill them. Not because I feel bad about it, but because I have ths irrational fear that when my hand gets close to them, they’ll jump onto my arm and make their way to my face and then who knows what horrors will occur?! I usually get my dad or even my 11 year old sister to kill them for me. It’s quite sad.

  • bPer:

    Susan, if you get fed up steeling yourself for the “impending horror of heat”, you could always come up here to Ottawa for a break. We’ve been having some unusually-cool and wet weather lately. At the moment it’s (wait while I convert … ) 64°F. If you hurry, you could be here for Canada Day tomorrow!

    We all have my wife to blame for this cool weather. She’s 200 km away at this event learning to paddle kayaks. She didn’t take cold weather gear with her, so I’ve been expecting a call to come and rescue her, but so far, no call. She must be having a really great time.

    βPer

  • Nancy in PA:

    After reading this I found one today in my cucumbers. All I had with me were my kitchen sheers. Since it was so large….SNIP!! Ew…

  • Jennifer:

    blerg. I used to use little scissors to trim my petunias because they have that sticky quality, and they also get those little green worms on them (such a baby). So squishing bugs with my fingers was never my thing.

    I say gather more of those spiders!

  • We just dust our squash with Sevin Dust and that does the trick…

  • LucyJoy:

    Your post reminds me of my dad killing slugs. He’d go out every evening with a shovel & dissect the suckers in half…Then when he was done (1/2 hour to hour later), he’d give us a head count…Yech!

  • Heh. You said “ree” in the same post about disgusting bugs!!!!

    I hope I don’t get them in my garden. They sound awful!

  • Sounds yucky!! I’m not even going to look in our garden to see if we have them.

  • As a horrible, earth hating person, I have to ask…
    why not just spray? I mean, if they’re soo infested??
    Actually, I prefer not to spaqry, that’s why I don’t grow broccoli anymore too many wormy things, ugh.
    Aside from making the backyard look cute, I wonder, is it really worth it?? Counting my time weeding, water, plants, etc…those are some damn expensive veges! PLUS, gross bugs!!

  • Can’t help popping in here with a solution. A few seeds of white icicle radishes in the center of each squash hill. Let them grow and go to seed and leave them there as a natural repellent. (from the companion planting book “Carrots Love Tomatoes”) I use it and never have problems with those stripey guys-big dogs digging holes to lay in the shade of the squash leaves, yes, black and bellow bugs no. :D

  • dandelionmom = I will give it a try next year. Thanks!