Weekend Gardening: Squash Bug Control

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Sometimes you have to take drastic action to get rid of garden pests, like squash bugs. Every year we lose plants due to this persistent insect, which feeds on our squash, pumpkins, and cucumber plants. They lay their eggs on the bottom side of plant leaves, which hatch in about 10 days, and though one generation is typical each year, sometimes a partial second generation overlaps. The adults often survive freezing and will overwinter under garden debris, so it’s best to take care of them in warm weather to prevent them from hanging around in the garden all winter, waiting for your precious squash and pumpkins in June.

So a couple weeks ago after our butternut squash plants suddenly began to yellow and fail, I went out to the patch that evening and spotted dozens of the nymphs and adult squash bugs running around the plants, scurrying away as I carefully poked around, trying to calculate the damage.

Andrea Meyers - Squash bug nymph

There were simply too many to pick off by hand, so I checked out other options on the Mother Earth News website—we subscribe to the magazine—and found an interesting article and discussion thread about squash bug management. One reader claimed to have sucked up all the squash bugs with a Shop-Vac about 1/4 full of water. We just happen to have a Wet/Dry Shop-Vac, so Michael couldn’t resist.

Andrea Meyers - Michael sucking up squash bugs with a wet shop vac.

He sucked up as many squash bugs as he could find that evening, and we continue to check for more and monitor our little zucchini plants that we seeded just a couple weeks ago, hoping to avoid the early summer squash bug rush.

And what did Michael think of this method? He pumped his arms and fists and said it was “very satisfying.”


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  1. says

    What a fantastic idea! I killed about 6 of those little buggers this morning. Shop-vac makes sense. In the spring during moth season we use the vacuum cleaner to suck up the moths that get in the house. Thanks for the helpful hint!

  2. Logan says

    That’s exactly how I got rid of the squash bugs! They had completely over-run 6 of our plants. Over a week, I went out every night and sucked them up. They make a satisfying thunk as they hit the interior of the shop vac hose.

  3. says

    You can also remove that section of the leaf where the eggs have been lain. An older trick is to put vaseline around the base stem at ground level and up about three inches. The adults need to climb up the stem to lay the eggs and they can’t get past the vaseline. And, spread mothballs around the base of the stem — which also keeps ants away from plants, too! Come visit when you can.

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