Check Your Garden for Squash Bugs
Squash bugs can be a serious pest of squash, zucchini, and pumpkin plants. These stink bug relatives feed on the sap of squash and related plants throughout the summer and into fall.
When populations are high, squash bug feeding can cause reduced yields, wilting and plant death. Seedlings and young plants are especially sensitive to feeding injury.
Adult squash bugs lay clusters of copper colored, hard, seed-like eggs on the top and bottom of squash, zucchini and pumpkin leaves in early summer. Eggs can also be found on stems and developing fruits. If left to develop, young squash bugs will hatch from these eggs and join their parents in feeding on plant sap.
The good news is populations are just starting to build up. Taking action as soon as squash bugs become active can prevent this pest from damaging your squash, zucchini or pumpkin crop.
To prevent this pest from becoming a major problem this summer, check squash, zucchini and pumpkin plants every few days and remove and destroy any eggs or squash bugs you find. Young squash bugs, also known as nymphs, have gray bodies and black legs and are sometimes mistaken for spiders or ticks. An easy way to tell if a critter you have found is an insect is to count the legs — insects have six legs while spiders and ticks have eight.
The most effective way to control squash bugs in home gardens is to physically remove them from the plants. Eggs can be scraped off of leaves and squished or dropped into a bucket of water to which a few drops of dish washing detergent have been added.
Nymphs hang out in gangs and are often found in clusters on the back of plant leaves, while adults are easiest to find late in the evening on plant stems close to the ground. Nymphs and adults can be dropped or flicked into a bucket of soapy water or squished between two boards or bricks.
Few beneficial insects attack adult squash bugs, which emit a foul odor when disturbed, though ground beetles can be important predators of squash bug eggs.
Long term management practices for this pest include crop rotation and sanitation. Squash bugs overwinter as adults. Removing plant debris from the garden at the end season will reduce overwintering sites.
- Squash Bugs (University of Maryland Extension)
- Managing Squash Bugs on Organic Farms (eXtension)
- Pests of Squash, Cucumber, Melons and other Cucurbits (Clemson Extension)
- Ground Beetles (University of Maine)
For answers to your gardening questions, contact an Extension Master Gardener℠ volunteer. In Chatham County, EMGs are available to answer your gardening questions Monday and Thursday afternoons, from 1:00 – 4:00. To contact a Chatham EMG:
- Call 919-545-2715
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Visit N.C. Cooperative Extension – Chatham County Center, located in the Chatham County Agriculture and Conference Center, 1192 US 64W Business, Pittsboro. Directions
- Visit EMGs at the Fearrington Farmers Market the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of the month, 4:00 – 6:00.
Contacting the EMGs in your county will ensure you get the best advice for your area and will connect you with local resources. Connect with EMGs in your county:
N.C. Cooperative Extension has an office in every county. Find your local N.C. Cooperative Extension County Center.
Use Extension Search to find research based information from Cooperative Extension systems across the U.S.