When Squash Bugs Attack

Yesterday we finally got a reprieve from triple digit temperatures.  It felt almost like spring at only 90 degrees F with a slight cool breeze.  I was able to run outside after work without fear of death!

Since it was a bit cooler, Benzo and I headed out to the garden after my run to continue the fight against the weeds.  We only worked about an hour but were able to make a fairly good dent in the weeds.  There is still a lot of work to do.

I decided to go ahead and pull out my zucchini plants even though they weren’t completely dead yet.  Both hills were completely invaded by squash bugs.  Squash bugs get my zucchini plants every year.  It’s only a matter of time.  This is what a squash bug looks like:

Nasty thing isn’t it?  It just looks mean.  That is not my picture above.  I found it on Google Images.  I had my camera with me in the garden last night, but the sun was going down and the battery was running out so I couldn’t get a good picture of the adult squash bugs on my own plants.  I did however get a picture of a big group of babies:

The babies are lighter in color and obviously much smaller.  I usually see them in big groups.

So if you see these bugs on your squash plants, kill them!  They are not helpful bugs.  Also if you see the eggs you know you have them.  The eggs are typically on the underside of the leaves.  This is what the eggs look like:

Again that is not my picture, but mine look just like that.  My zucchini plants are right next to some tomatoes and I actually found some squash bug eggs on my tomato leaves.  😡 

If you can catch them early, you can keep them somewhat under control.  I have had success spraying them with soap and water.  I also spray the eggs and try to knock the eggs off the leaves.  But you have to be diligent about it and get out there and spray them almost every day.  And always after it rains.  Spray the middle of the plant, close to the ground.  That’s where the squash bugs are usually hanging out.

Alas this year I let the bugs go on too long (like the weeds) and so I could tell there was no hope for saving my zucchinis.  I pulled them out of the ground and drug the plants over to the compost pile.  Removing the zucchinis did free up a lot of space for the tomatoes, which are expanding like crazy.

Here is a shot of the tomatoes on the north end of the garden.  Where the zucchinis are lying on the ground is where the plants used to be.  This is a big improvement from before because you can actually see the ground instead of weeds!

The two big boy tomato plants had pulled their cages over because they were so heavy with fruit.  Benzo was able to reinforce them last night with some stakes and wire in the ground.  Basically like a tent stake that pulls the cage back upright.  Now I just have to remember not to trip over the wire.

Here’s the shot from the other side.  Tomatoes are turning red!  But as you can see there’s a lot more weeding to do.

Tell me, have you had problems with squash bugs?  How do you fight them off?


48 thoughts on “When Squash Bugs Attack

  1. I’m glad to hear that you are pulling your zucchini plants. We don’t have squash bugs (I don’t think..hmmm) but after about 6 weeks of good zucchini growing, it seems our plants just up and quit. Not sure what happened. Maybe zucchini dislikes 95 degree days as much as we do. Either way our zucchini crop is over for this year and we are actively looking for something to plant for the fall. Any suggestions?

    1. I would suggest any fall weather plant – turnips, collards, kale. My kale from the spring is STILL growing and doesn’t seem to be fazed by the high temperatures. Last year I planted fall turnips and picked the last of them on Christmas Eve.

      I’m hoping to put in some fall lettuce, radishes and spinach as well but I’m not sure how they would do in this heat.

      Look for something that does well in cooler temperatures (which seems odd considering how hot it is outside now) and look at the number of days till harvest. If you have enough days between now and your first frost I say go for it!

    2. Gempler’s online products has liquid garlic. I mix as instructed and just sit back and watch the squash bugs climb franticlty to the top of the plants. I gather them up and smask them before they kill my zuchinni plants. Garlic is organic and drives off all bugs. Just to be sure, I smash the squash bugs so they won’t return. I love organic pest control !

  2. Thanks for this post! I’ve been seeing those eggs and those little gray bugs, and thanks to you, I now know what they are. 😦

  3. So that’s what they are! I had a couple of the babies on my green beans and wondered what the white fuzzy bugs were! The beans were already done by then anyway so at least that was good!

  4. I have squash bugs on my tomatoes and now on our hot pepper plants. Any suggestion on getting rid of them. My tomatoes spoil before I can get them picked.

  5. We have a bad infestation of squash bugs. They’ve already destroyed the zucchini and are now on our pumpkins and winter squash. We use lemon, basil, jalapenos, parsley, garlic and make a tea. Then we add soap and oil and spray the garden. It works for awhile but, they just come back. So, we tried picking them off but, there are too many. I think we’ll be lucky if we get more out of our garden. So far we’ve gotten quite a bit. They haven’t bothered our tomatoes or tomatillos. They’ve just about ruined the broccoli and kohlrabi.

    1. Robert – I’m so sorry to hear about the squash bug infestation. Frustrating isn’t it? I don’t know if there are any companion plants that repel squash bugs but that is something I want to look into for next year.

      1. Nasturtiums are supposed to repel squash bugs but I have no firsthand experience with this natural approach.

  6. Hi! I had squash bugs this year (I think by the thousands). All my squashes were bascially a bust although I did get a few of everything. I’ve had squash bugs in the past and I’ve used floating row covers in the early stages of growth which seemed to keep the bugs at bay. Howver, this year I was lazy and never put up the covers so the bugs attacked! I’ve been looking at some gardening books and am now converend as I’ve read the bugs will “overwinter” on boards. I have raised beds. Do you think I should spray the wood of the beds? I try to be as natural as possible but I’ve got to try to get rid of these critters. Also, I would suggest not putting infected plants in your compost as I think they will overwinter there as well. Any suggestions as to how to best control these pests would be greatly appreciated!

  7. thanks! I have them on my plant too. But since i grew the zucks for my fish I didn’t really care if I got a lot of zucks or not. Do the zucks grow from the flowers?

  8. I go out in my garden every day to pick them by hand (with glove, of course) and kill them all that I can see!(I know it is nasty) I noticed that they come up on the top of the leaves when I water the plants, so I usually do my “killing” right after I watered my plant! You can’t completely eliminate them all, but it sure does help me keeping my zucchini!

  9. I just noticed them today, boo! I picked 2 smaller zucchini and cleaned them off. If I peel them can I still use them? Do the bugs eat from the outside in or inside out. I haven’t cut anything yet!

    1. Hi Lou! We still eat the zucchini as long as it looks fine. I just wash it well and trim off any bug bite marks. But once the plant and fruit is swarmed I pull the whole plant out and chuck it in the compost.

  10. Hi! I found your link on Google Image. I just discovered squash bugs on my summer squash leaves this am. Thanks for the tips. I will be diligent!

  11. The best suggestion I’ve found is just to use dish soap and water. I have a small bucket with soap and water where I chunk the big bugs (and any dying leaves that are swarming with bugs). I have only had to go all “Total Recall” on the plants twice. But, every day I go out with a spray bottle with water and dish soap and spray the leaves, stems, ground, and any bugs I see. It is a direct contact thing, though–so the bugs have to be dripping with the spray for it to be effective. The bugs don’t really damage the fruit, mostly just the leaves–and you can really tell which ones they’re keen on! Oh, and an “old-timer” at our local Farmer’s Market said that they tend to hang out on the eastern side of the plant(s)–look there in the evening when you’ve got your bucket & spray ready!

    1. My plants are under attack:( I was looking at your post about using dish soap and water. Is there a particular ratio in mixing it?
      Thank you because they are driving me nuts!! My worry is I have a cucumber next to the zucchini and I’ve caught a couple on that plant too.

  12. I have the dreaded squash bugs. I found two today in the garden and killed them. I think since I saw two adults there must be 200 or more hiding. I read about using duct tape to get the eggs off of the leaves. I haven’t tried it yet but I like that idea better than burning a hole. I open to any suggestions. I am going to try the dish soap. I rarely see the actual bugs. I will try looking right after watering. Thanks everyone for the suggestions.

  13. I have squash bugs. They ruined a “volunteer” acorn squash and my zucchini that I planted. I thought that I had 2 different kinds of bugs, so I went online to see what they were. Before I looked online, I used soapy water on the plants. My aunt used to do that a lot. I also put the leaves that had eggs into the burn barrel. That will eliminate those nasty things. I took revenge on the bugs them selves by squashing the squash bugs. I was so angry that they ruined my beautiful plants…it seemed like it was overnight. I will be using soap as a preventative now.

  14. I live in Las Vegas and never had the dreaded bug now I also have them and it is already august. So I will go out and spray with dish detergent. What a awful bug that is. Ugly too.
    I just hope it works my zucchini plants are still growing .

  15. Just found the nasty things today in our garden thought they were stink bugs…boo we had to pull out all 8 of our plants…they were totally infested and we hadn’t gotten anything off of them for a while, they just weren’t producing. We also had the unfortunate experience of finding several giant hornworns. Any idea how to get rid of those?

    1. Tomatoe hornworms can be hand picked and killed, they are luna moth larva. Take your time in looking for them they are hard to see, they blend in well. The other choice is to mix up some BT, it is considered an organic and is specific in that the hornworm will have to eat the leaf in order to kill them. Look for black/green scat it is usually on the leaves below wear it is feeding. You can also attract parasitic wasp, they will implant their larva in the worm and as there babies grow inside the worm it eventually kills them ( a sllow process).

      1. Tomato horn-worm is the larva of the tomato hornworm moth please leave the luna moths alone they are beautiful and the caterpillar though large does little damage

      2. If you stand still in your garden in the evening and you have lots of the hornworms, you can actually hear them chewing. I had one a couple of years ago and almost touched it pulling off tomatoes. It went out on driveway for the birds to fight over.

  16. Thanks for all the info folks. My squash plants have been decimated so I pulled them but they’ve moved on to my beloved cucumbers! I noticed the eggs, but didn’t nip it in the bud in time. I might try soap and water on the cukes when I get back from vacation, but I may just let them have at it since I’ve already gotten a great yield this year and they haven’t found by climber cukes yet (which are about done anyway). They seemed to stay away from my peppers tomatoes and eggplant, so I’m happy with that. I will definitely be more vigilant next season!

  17. my garden has been taken over by these bugs! first i noticed them on our zucchini, they sucked the life right out of the plants one by one. then i pulled those plants and a couple weeks later they destroyed our pumpkins. our cucumbers too!
    should i be concerned about tomatoes and eggplant?
    should i do anything more aggressive than dish soap?
    i want to set garden on fire at this point!
    and what should i do next year to prevent these disastrous bugs?

  18. I have the squash bugs! Soap and water is the best we can do? The leaves are mostly yellow but new growth is happening.

    1. I am trying to grow an organic garden and spent a small fortune on setting up 2 8×4 raised garden beds. When these bugs first appeared this year I started spraying with neem oil pesticide, from the local nursery (very expensive). It just is not doing the job I am going to try the soap and water my neighbor says it really works. I think I will try to get them to come to the top of the plant and kill them by hand at least I will feel vindicated by the revenge. 🙂 Eve

  19. Sorry Sharon; (August 18, 2012) Tomato hornworms are NOT Luna moths in their adult stage. The hornworm adults are called Hawk Moths or Sphinx Moths. They are a mottled gray-brown color with yellow spots on the sides of the abdomen.

  20. Here in Albuquerque squash bugs are the major challenge of every grower, so we constantly work for a solution that satisfies the organic gardener. They supposedly both emerge out of the ground and arrive by air. Planting late summer is one way to avoid them.

    Squash bug EGGS should be burned off, not the adults. ADULTS, which can usually be caught as they are mating… stuck with their butts together, can be grabbed by hand and put into a jar with a small opening, filled with water where they will eventually drown. NEWLY HATCHED bugs can be vacuumed up.

    Experienced squash/ melon growers will warn you not to smoosh them, as it attracts even more bugs by the strong scent emitted.

    I now plant my cucumbers in a different area far away from the zukes/melons, etc which are more prone.

  21. I also have problems with squash bugs. If you can find a insecticide that has pyrethrin in it GET IT!!! My father in law told me about it and it has worked wonders. It also helps eliminate Japanese beetles, which were all over my corn. After I sprayed the corn I never saw one. They also say to put down insecticide granules. This will kill the larva. Hope this helps!!!

  22. Ahhh. It’s like watch Arachnophobia. Once I saw them on my squash plants I couldn’t get them off my mind. Originally, not knowing what they were I did the first thing that came to mind. I cleared out ALL dead and dry leaves. From the ground and cut off the plants. The bugs seemed to be up and under the stems that sat on the ground. Clearing out all debris thinking to minimize their hiding/breeding ground. The next day there seem to be less. I took the advice of taking fire to them and especially the eggs on the underside of leaves and some on the stems. I have been vigilant every day to take off all dead/dyeing parts of plants. Plants are still setting flowers and producing. So far so good. A clean garden is happy garden is a healthy garden is what I have been taught.

  23. I recently became invaded with these little monsters and have no idea what to do about them. I don’t want to use chemicals but, you can’t pick all of them off by hand. HELP PLEASE!!!

  24. I ended up pulling out a gloriously beautiful summer squash due to these bugs – I have not had them in previous years and wonder why I have them now. I’ve always rotated the plants, but never had anything like this before. I have used Captain Jack’s stuff – supposed to have an ingredient from overseas that kills everything – not. Now I’m using dawn dishwater squirted (one squirt) into my watering can and dousing everything – morning and night. Seems to keep them off of the cucumbers and the zucchini. I’m hopeful. Watching tomato plants like a hawk – also peppers, jalapenos and lettuce. So very frustrating but thank you for the information! Good luck to us all!

  25. Gary
    I always get a few squash bugs on my zucchinis and use Sevin Dust early…while the plant is small and no fruit yet. Dust around the plant at the base. If the bugs win, they do it by biting into the stem low on the plant and the poor plant just withers and dies…it’s all over, done. Get em early. And if you see one, for hecks sake squash it…get it? squash the squash bug..haha

  26. I have a bug problem on our zucchini plant leaves it’s a small yellow bug or maybe worm don’t no what it is but it is eating the leaves help please…..

  27. I have an organic garden. I kill squash bugs with a mixture of dawn dish soap and water in a spray bottle. It take about 4 minutes for them to die, but it always works. About 2 tablespoons of Dawn to my 8 oz. spray bottle. When I see eggs on the leaves of the plants, I just tear off that portion of the leaf and put it in a zip lock baggie. The sun takes care of the disposal.

  28. I found what I think is this squash bug on my tomato plant. I have only found one so far and it was sitting on the tomato which looks to be rotting. I have a deck garden and I have just a few potted vegetables there. But, I do not have squash. I wonder if I have identified this bug accurately because of that. Will spraying them with dishsoap and water help to control this problem?

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