This article was originally published on July 16, 2012 and expired on July 23, 2012. It is provided here for archival purposes and may contain dated information.
Squash bugs are becoming more evident in vegetable plots across the four-county area. If left unchecked, these insects will cause cucurbit plants to wilt almost as if they were infected by bacterial wilt (squash bug infested plants might recover following elimination of the pest while wilt infected plants would not).
Squash bugs are not the same pest as stink bugs, although these small, initially gray-colored, garden pests do closely resemble them. They also smell terrible and do stink when crushed.
In Illinois, squash bugs overwinter as adults beneath debris. In early spring, adults seek out cucurbits on which to feed by sucking juice from leaves, stems, and fruit (damaged fruit often develops a foul taste due to such feeding). They lay clusters of small reddish-brown eggs (usually in June/July) on leaves and those small eggs hatch into small gray squash bug nymphs. While a single generation occurs each year, it is not uncommon to find several different stages of the pest because eggs are deposited throughout the remainder of the season.
Insecticides are one option for managing this pest (permethrin is often noted). However, some additional and/or alternative approaches to management may prove effective.
Adult squash bugs are difficult to control chemically when full grown so the grower may wish to eliminate and then replace daytime habitat. Squash bugs spend the daytime beneath debris. If that debris is eliminated and replaced with old boards, etc., the adults will move beneath that replacement habitat. Elimination may then be as simple as picking up the board each morning and eliminating (squashing?) the squash bugs.
An alternate method of management removes the eggs themselves (via either removing the eggs or the leaves on which eggs are deposited) as they are detected and requires daily scouting.
Source: Matt Montgomery, Extension Educator, Local Food Systems and Small Farms, firstname.lastname@example.org
Pull date: July 23, 2012