Squash bugs are a common nuisance in gardens as they can cause significant damage to squash and pumpkin plants. These insects feed on plant sap, leading to yellow, wilted leaves and reduced plant growth and yield. Adult squash bugs are large, dark gray or brown, and have flattened bodies, while their eggs are oval-shaped and yellowish to bronze in color.
There are several natural approaches to controlling these pests in your garden. Some chemical-free strategies include using row covers, yellow pans filled with water to trap squash bugs, and encouraging natural predators. By adopting these organic methods, you can effectively manage the squash bug population and protect your squash and pumpkin plants from harm.
Identifying Squash Bugs
Squash bugs (Anasa tristis) are large, flattened insects, usually dark gray to dark brown and measure about 5/8 inch long. They have abdomens with alternating orange and brown stripes1. Nymphs range in size from 1/10 to 1/2 inch with a similar appearance to adults but without wings1.
Squash Bug Damage
Squash bugs primarily feed on leaves and stems, but may also feed on fruit2. Leaf damage includes:
- Small white dots (stippling)
- Leaves appearing tattered, yellow, or scorched
Squash Bug Life Cycle
Squash bug life stages include eggs, nymphs, and adults. The eggs are:
- 1/16 inch long
- Yellowish to bronze1
Squash bug life cycle consists of:
- Female adults lay eggs in clusters, often on the underside of leaves3.
- Nymphs hatch from the eggs and grow until they reach adulthood1.
Natural Methods for Squash Bug Control
Physical Removal Techniques
- Hand-picking: Physically remove adult bugs and eggs from plants daily. Examples include:
- Checking undersides of leaves for eggs
- Inspecting stems and leaves for adult bugs
- Water spray: Use a forceful spray of water to dislodge bugs and eggs.
Beneficial Insects and Predators
- Ladybugs: Although not natural predators of squash bugs, they help control other pests, promoting a healthy garden.
- Tachinid flies: A parasitic fly that lays eggs on squash bugs, killing them as the larvae feed.
Natural Repellents and Barriers
- Companion planting: Plant blue hubbard squash as a trap crop to lure squash bugs away from target crops.
- Protective collars: Create collars from aluminum foil or small plastic cups around vines to deter pests. Example:
- Make a collar at least 2 inches high on the vine, slightly buried in the soil.
- Organic insecticides: Spray plants with B.t. (Bacillus thuringiensis), a natural bacteria that feed on caterpillars.
|Chemical-free; immediate results
|Easy to apply; non-toxic
|May not remove all eggs/stages
|Organic; beneficial to garden
|Not specific to squash bugs
|Natural predators of squash bugs
|May not be readily available
|Environmentally friendly; easy to grow
|Takes up garden space
|Simple; reusable; no chemicals
|May not protect against all pests
|Organic insecticides (B.t.)
|Targets caterpillars; safe for humans
|Not specific to squash bugs
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Spiky True Bug Nymph is Helmeted Squash Bug
Subject: small spikey bug mid ohio
Geographic location of the bug: north central ohio 21AUG17
Time: 09:46 PM EDT
Found this very weird spiked bug while shooting eclipse pictures on 21AUG17. The critter is perhaps 1/4″-3/8″ long. Found in field in north central Ohio (Richland County). Ive tried searching many different sources and have come up empty, maybe a juvenile version of something more familiar ?
How you want your letter signed: small spikey bug mid ohio
This is definitely an immature True Bug in the suborder Heteroptera, and we believe we have identified it as a Helmeted Squash Bug, Euthochtha galeator, thanks to this BugGuide image. According to BugGuide: “Feeds on a variety of wild and cultivated plants (Mead 2003).”
Letter 2 – Squash Bug
Big green bug!!!!
Location: Im my amper in st.charles mo 63301
June 15, 2011 7:08 pm
Hey bugman I was opening my emergency exit to my camper (I wanted to try it out)
and when i opened it there was a gigantic green bug on the exit flap! I screamed and jumped down from the top bunk and ran out the camper door. It was hi-larry-o but what is the bug called?
Signature: -Scared of a big green bug
Dear Scared of a big green bug,
While this Squash Bug, Anasa tristis, will not harm you or your camper, it may feed on any squash or pumpkin plants in your garden. They are considered pests of cultivated plants in the squash family.