Squash Bugs and Vine Borers…even the words make me shudder. Hot Florida weather comes at a cost. The bug population this spring and summer has been overwhelming to say the least. Organic gardening in this climate has posed some definite challenges.
Squash bugs appeared to cover my squash by the thousands while vine borers attacked at the vine level. Through the first bout of vine borers, I cut each growing vine at the base and removed each and every worm. I had great results. But, when round 2 came these 3′ vines were now 12′ vines and were overtaken all throughout the stems. There was no way to physically pull them on round 2 and I lost that battle. Before making it 1/4 of the way through my beautiful vines the borers began to indulge in the fruits of my labor. Even the resistant butternut was overcome and the insides hollowed out. Still yet, I managed to harvest over 60. I burned all the vines and infected fruit, destroying the borers that remained. As you can see, I was not successful in my burn attempt. I threw some gas on the green vine pile and did not know there was a spark of fire hiding in its depths. The fire ran upstream and ignited the gas tank in my hand, causing it to explode and throw gasoline all over my front. Standing in the middle of the fire, somehow only my hand took the damage. Amazing. Anyhow, I finally admitted defeat and threw up my white flag to the vine borers on my trip to the ER that night.
I took these minutes before the accident
I have exhausted just about every logical method to eradicate Mr. Borer. All crops were covered shortly after planting seed with Reemay, yet were still infested. Many other recommendations online such as each vine were impractical in such a large garden and the side notes always say, “may not work.” My thought is to plant a late August crop which is possible in Florida with our long season. Our northern friends can avoid the borer by planting veggies in the Moschata family such as butternuts. Gourds like Cucuzzi and Luffa are edible when small and are great substitutes for Zucchini. Northern areas don’t seem to have such dramatic borer infestations in the south and Moschata counterparts are normally not bothered by these insects in those regions.
Squash bugs need to be controlled a.s.a.p. The eggs are noticeably seen on the underside of the leaves in your garden. They are maroonish to brown in color and remind me of strawberry seeds for some reason. There will be several laid together. Destroy these as they will hatch promptly. Small squash bugs are easy to kill when young but the adults are hard to destroy. Their population grows quickly. The bugs can be hard to spot. They will run around the leaves as you move them, staying out of sight and they are fast. If you lay a board or newspaper out in the garden, they tend to collect under them at night, making for easier eradication. Signs of Squash Bugs in your garden are black wilted leaves.
I planted our giant sunflowers near the squash this year (those beauties grew to 8′) and it helped cut down on these bugs considerably. Squash Bugs, Stink Bugs, and the adult Vine Borer Moth (which kind of resembles a wasp) are all attracted to sunflowers. Each day the flowers were covered in these bugs. Fill a bucket with soapy water, and throw the bugs into the bucket. It kills them fast. Also be on the lookout for Squash Bug eggs on the leaves. Dunking your sunflower heads in the bucket may seem quicker than plucking the bugs off but the wetness will cause molding of the heads. Picking them off really doesn’t take long. There were so many on ours I could grab them by the handful. After a few days you will notice a LOT less of the little boogers.