Save Your Squash: Defend Against Squash Vine Borers and Squash Bugs

Squash, with its vibrant hues and versatile culinary uses, is a beloved addition to many gardens.

However, gardeners often encounter the challenges posed by pests like squash vine borers and squash bugs. These voracious insects can wreak havoc on squash plants if left unchecked. Fortunately, with proactive measures and diligent care, you can protect your squash crop and ensure a bountiful harvest.

Understanding the enemy

Squash vine borer larvae | Vego Garden

Squash Vine Borer Larvae

Squash vine borers, notorious for their destructive capabilities, lay eggs at the base of squash plants. Once hatched, the larvae burrow into the stems, disrupting the plant's nutrient flow and causing wilting and eventual death. Squash bugs, on the other hand, feast on leaves, stems, and fruit, causing extensive damage and transmitting diseases.

Prevention is key

Crop rotation: Rotate your squash crops annually to prevent the buildup of pests in the soil. By alternating planting locations, you disrupt the insects' lifecycle and reduce the risk of infestation.

Healthy soil: Prioritize soil health by enriching it with compost and organic matter. Well-nourished plants are more resilient to pests and diseases, making them less susceptible to attacks.

Early planting: Plant squash varieties early in the season to outpace the emergence of squash vine borer moths. Early planting allows squash plants to establish themselves before peak pest activity.

Row covers: Use lightweight row covers to shield young squash plants from adult squash vine borers and squash bugs. Ensure the covers are securely anchored to prevent pests from accessing the plants.

Vigilant monitoring and management

Squash bugs | Vego Garden

Squash bugs can ruin all your hard gardening work

Inspect regularly: Conduct routine inspections of your squash plants, focusing on the stems, leaves, and undersides of foliage. Look for signs of wilting, frass (sawdust-like excrement), or egg clusters, which indicate the presence of squash vine borers or squash bugs.

Handpick pests: Remove squash vine borer eggs and squash bugs by hand to prevent infestations from escalating. Squash vine borer larvae can sometimes be carefully extracted from stems using a sharp knife or needle.

Beneficial insects: Introduce beneficial insects such as parasitic wasps, green lacewings and predatory beetles to your garden. These natural predators help control squash vine borers and squash bug populations by preying on eggs and larvae.

Cold-pressed Neem oil spray: Apply organic insecticides like neem oil to deter squash bugs and squash vine borers. Neem oil disrupts the insects' feeding and reproductive cycles while posing minimal risk to beneficial insects and the environment. Make sure to apply late in the evening to avoid leaf burn and beneficial insects.

Cultural practices for success

Pruning and trellising: Prune squash plants to remove excess foliage and promote airflow, reducing the risk of humidity-related diseases and making it easier to detect pest activity. Additionally, trellising squash vines keeps fruit off the ground, minimizing contact with soil-borne pests.

Trap crops: Plant trap crops such as blue Hubbard squash to lure squash bugs away from main squash varieties. By sacrificing a portion of your garden to trap crops, you can protect your primary squash plants from severe infestations.

Green squash harvest | Vego Garden

Healthy green squash

Protecting squash from squash vine borers and squash bugs requires a combination of preventive measures, vigilant monitoring, and cultural practices.

By implementing these strategies and maintaining a watchful eye on your squash plants, you can mitigate pest damage and enjoy a fruitful harvest season. With dedication and proactive care, safeguarding your squash becomes an achievable feat, ensuring the beauty and bounty of your garden thrive.


  • michael Durant

    ok, use as small bell pepper cage and plant the squash upright yes up right , then wrap the stem with medical tape because it can breath and keep pest out

  • michael Durant

    ok, use as small bell pepper cage and plant the squash upright yes up right , then wrap the stem with medical tape because it can breath and keep pest out

  • Hillary Lilly

    I always try to use the aluminum foil wrapped around the stems. I also have read that parsley is a companion plant that the moths do not like. This has helped somewhat, but I still have to keep inspecting the plants. Ann, please be careful with the traps. We tried them years ago with japanese beetles and all it did was attract more. You may be increasing the problem instead of solving it. Good luck with your gardens, everyone.

  • Deborah

    I try to be quite diligent when it comes to squash bugs. I don’t like using commercial insecticides, so I go squash bug hunting morning and evening to find the egg clusters. I pick the eggs off and throw them in a canister with soapy water. Any hatched bugs get squished. Also a little overhead watering can drive squash bugs out into the open, making them easy to get. But also remember that overhead watering too much can bring on fungus. Actual watering of squash is better done at the base of the plants. I love the comment on the stretchy tape (perhaps vet wrap) to help with vine borers!! I’ve used aluminum foil in the past.

  • Ann

    Squash vine borers tend to show up pretty early once summer heat sets in. Often right about when the earliest possible summer squash is starting to bloom. So there is no outpacing them by planting early.
    I net mine until they start to bloom. But I also wrap the stems of my summer squash with the stretchy “stick to itself” athletic tape. I start slightly below the soil level and continue up to the lowest leaves. As new leaves emerge, I will pick off the lowest and continue the wrapping. It helps to be able to keep the squash main stems growing up straight as possible.
    This year I am also trying out squash vine borer traps for the first time. I am hoping that it will not only trap many of the moths, but will be useful as a monitoring tool to know when they are at their peak

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