Thursday, July 7, 2011

Squash Bugs Present by the Hundreds in Henderson County Gardens

These pests of vegetable gardens usually hide under leaves or around the base of plants. They characteristically shy away or move to cover when approached.

All cucurbit vine crops are subject to squash bug infection. The bugs prefer squash, pumpkin, cucumber, and melon, in that order.

Feeding in colonies, adults and nymphs pierce vines with their needle-like mouthparts. While feeding, they inject a toxic substance into plants. As a result, vines quickly turn black and dry out. This aspect of squash bug damage superficially resembles bacterial wilt symptoms. When infestations are heavy, fruit may not form.

Squash bugs overwinter as adults under plant debris or other suitable shelter. When cucurbit vines start to run in spring, squash bugs fly into gardens and mate. Over a period of several weeks, eggs are laid on undersides of leaves, typically in the angles formed by leaf veins. One or 2 weeks later, depending on the temperature, nymphs hatch from the eggs and begin to feed.

In small gardens, adult squash bugs and leaves with egg masses can be handpicked and destroyed. The bugs can also be trapped by placing small boards near the host vines. Squash bugs gather under the boards at night and are easily collected and destroyed the next morning.

Should a significant infestation develop, insecticide recommendations and rates can be found in the current North Carolina Agricultural Chemicals Manual.

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