Plants That Repel Squash Bugs: Your Natural Defenders Unveiled

Squash bugs can be a gardener’s nightmare, causing damage to beloved squash plants and reducing their yield. These pests, specifically Anasa tristis, are known for their flattened and large appearance, along with their penchant for feeding on the sap of squash plants, leading to yellowing and wilting of the leaves. Luckily, there are some plants that can help repel them and protect your squash garden.

Integrating certain plants into your garden can deter squash bugs and minimize the damage they cause. For example, using a trap crop like blue hubbard squash has been found effective in attracting squash bugs away from the main crop. Additionally, planting herbs and flowers with strong scents, such as marigolds and nasturtiums, can help in masking the smell of squash plants, making it harder for squash bugs to locate their preferred target.

Identifying Squash Bugs and Their Damage

Life Cycle and Appearance

Squash bugs (Anasa tristis) are common pests in home gardens. Adult squash bugs are flattened, large insects, measuring 5/8 inch long and dark gray to dark brown in color. Their abdomens have alternating orange and brown stripes. The eggs are oval-shaped, 1/16 inch long, and yellowish to bronze. The nymphs hatching from the eggs vary in size, ranging from 1/10 to 1/2 inch1.

Damage to Squash Plants

These pests can cause significant damage to squash plants, including zucchini. They use their piercing-sucking mouthparts to sip plant sap, which causes small yellow-green or white spots on leaves, called “stippling”2. This feeding behavior can lead to:

  • Tattered, yellow, or scorched leaves2
  • Reduced growth and yield2

In addition to leaves, squash bugs can also feed on stems and fruit3. Fruit feeding scarred and may increase the chance of fruit rot during storage4. Heavy squash bug feeding along the plant leaf and plant stems can cause wilting4.

Comparison table of Squash bugs feeding damage on leaves and fruits:

Damage to Leaves Damage to Fruits
Stippling Scarring
Tattered appearance Rot during storage
Yellow or scorched
Reduced growth

It’s important to address the infestation before these pests have the chance to cause extensive damage to your garden. Keeping an eye out for the specific signs of squash bug infestation can make all the difference in protecting your plants.

Effective Methods to Control Squash Bugs

Natural Predators and Beneficial Insects

Some insects can help in controlling squash bugs. They include:

  • Tachinid flies: These tiny insects lay eggs on squash bugs, and their larvae feed on squash bug nymphs and adults.
  • Ladybugs: They feed on squash bug eggs.
  • Spiders: They prey on squash bug nymphs and adults.

To attract beneficial insects to your garden, you can plant enticing herbs like dill, fennel, and parsley.

Physical and Mechanical Methods

These methods can help prevent squash bug infestations:

  1. Hand-picking: Remove squash bugs and eggs by hand, especially in the early stages of infestation.
  2. Row covers: Use row covers to protect plants from squash bugs until they flower.
  3. Trap cropping: Plant Blue Hubbard Squash or similar varieties alongside the target crops, as they are more attractive to squash bugs.

Chemical and Organic Insecticides

Here is a comparison table of different insecticides for squash bug control:

Insecticide Pros Cons
Neem oil Organic, safe for beneficial insects May need frequent applications
Soapy water spray Easy to make, inexpensive Less effective on large infestations
Diatomaceous earth Natural, non-toxic May need reapplication after rain
Insecticidal soap Safe for most beneficial insects May require multiple applications

Some natural repellents include:

  • Garlic: Plant garlic near your squash plants to repel squash bugs.
  • Mint: The strong scent of mint deters squash bugs.
  • Onion: Plant onions alongside your squash plants to repel squash bugs.

Remember to use these control methods responsibly and adjust as needed to protect your plants.

Using Companion Plants to Repel Squash Bugs

Flowers and Ornamental Plants

Companion planting is a natural way to help reduce squash bug infestations. A variety of flowers, such as nasturtiums and marigolds, can be planted near squash to deter squash bugs.

  • Nasturtiums: These brightly colored flowers release an odor that repels squash bugs.
  • Marigolds: The scent of marigolds also helps to keep squash bugs away.

Other ornamental plants like dahlias, petunias, and bee balm can further enhance your garden’s defenses against squash bugs.

Herbs and Aromatic Plants

Herbs are another great companion plant option, as they can serve a dual purpose in repelling squash bugs and adding flavor to your dishes. The most effective herbs for combating squash bugs include:

  • Basil: This popular herb not only repels squash bugs but also stink bugs.
  • Mint: The strong scent of mint keeps squash bugs at bay.
  • Dill: This herb’s aroma is distasteful to squash bugs.
  • Chives: Their smell is undesirable to squash bugs.
  • Sage: Its fragrance is unappealing to squash bugs.

Other aromatic plants, such as catnip, lavender, and artemisia, can also be effective in keeping squash bugs away.

Plant Repels Squash Bugs? Additional Benefits
Nasturtiums Yes Bright color, attracts pollinators
Marigolds Yes Aesthetic appeal
Basil Yes Culinary use, repels stink bugs
Mint Yes Culinary use, freshens breath
Dill Yes Culinary use
Chives Yes Culinary use
Sage Yes Culinary use

In conclusion, using companion plants like flowers and aromatic herbs can help protect your squash from squash bug infestations without the use of chemicals. Incorporating these natural defenses into your garden can lead to healthier, bug-free squash plants.

Preventing and Managing Future Squash Bug Infestations

Cultivating Healthy and Resistant Squash Plants

  • Choose resistant varieties of squash plants to minimize squash bug infestations.
  • Consider companion planting with radishes and calendula, which may help repel squash bugs.

A healthy and resistant garden starts with selecting the right squash varieties. There are varieties of winter squash that have shown resistance to squash bug infestations. Additionally, incorporating companion plants like radishes and calendula may provide added protection against these pests.

Using Row Covers and Crop Rotation

  • Implement floating row covers to physically block squash bugs from accessing your plants.
  • Apply a proper crop rotation schedule to disrupt the squash bug lifecycle.

Floating row covers are an effective method for preventing squash bug infestations, particularly on young squash plants and cucumbers. Remove the row covers once the plants start flowering to allow pollination. Combine this with a proper crop rotation schedule, ensuring that cucurbits are not planted in the same location as the previous year. This will disrupt the lifecycle of squash bugs and other pests, such as cucumber beetles and vine borers.

Method Pros Cons
Floating Row Covers Protects young plants, prevents infestations Must be removed for pollination
Crop Rotation Disrupts pest lifecycle, diversifies garden Requires planning, space management

Removing Overwintering Sites

Squash bugs and cucumber beetles can overwinter in garden debris, leaf piles, or other hiding spots in your garden.

  • Clean up your garden before winter months to eliminate potential overwintering sites.
  • Inspect your garden periodically during winter to detect any hiding pests.

Preventative measures include cleaning up your garden before winter, removing any debris, fallen leaves, or rotting plants. This will minimize the number of places for squash bugs, cucumber beetles, and other pests to overwinter. Periodically inspect your garden during winter months for these pests and remove them immediately to prevent future infestations.

Dealing with Other Garden Pests

Common Pests Affecting Squash and Other Plants

  • Aphids: Small, soft-bodied insects that suck plant sap.
  • Cabbage moth: White butterflies that lay eggs on cabbage family plants.
  • Japanese beetle: Metallic beetles that eat various garden plants.
  • Cabbage worm: Green caterpillars that feed on cabbage family plants.
  • Tomato hornworm: Large, green caterpillars with a horn-like tail, feeding on tomatoes.
  • Flea beetle: Small, jumpy beetles that chew holes in leaves.
  • Squash vine borer: Moths that lay eggs on squash plants, producing larvae that bore into vines.

Controlling Pests with Natural Solutions

  • Ladybugs: These beneficial insects eat aphids, helping to keep populations in check.
  • Toxins: Certain plants, like early summer crookneck, release toxins that repel pests.
  • Companion planting: Beans, parsley, and carrots can help deter cabbage moths and other pests when planted near affected plants.
  • Damsel bugs: Predatory insects that feast on aphids, caterpillars, and other pests.
Method Pros Cons
Natural Solutions (e.g. Ladybugs) Non-toxic, eco-friendly, increase biodiversity May not be as effective as pesticides, can be slow to act

Integrated Pest Management

  • Monitoring: Regularly check plants for pests and signs of damage (e.g. yellow spots, bacterial wilt).
  • Cultural practices: Rotate cucurbit crops to prevent buildup of insects and diseases.
  • Biological control: Release beneficial insects, like ladybugs, to reduce pest populations.
  • Thresholds: Only use chemical controls when pest numbers exceed acceptable levels.
  • Resistance management: Alternate between different types of products to avoid resistance buildup in pests.

Footnotes

  1. https://extension.umn.edu/fruit-and-vegetable-insects/squash-bugs

  2. https://extension.umd.edu/resource/key-common-problems-squash 2 3

  3. https://extension.umd.edu/resource/squash-bug-vegetables

  4. https://pestadvisories.usu.edu/2020/06/24/squash-bug-management/ 2

Reader Emails

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 – Squash Bug

 

Subject: Found this on my Nectarine Tree
Location: Dana Point CA 92629
April 17, 2016 12:10 pm
Thanks for this service.
I only found one of these bugs. There are some leaves that look chewed. I wasn’t sure if this is a good insect or bad, so I’m keeping it until I find out.
I do not use pesticides and this year it seems like I have less bad bugs plenty of bees and lady bugs.
Signature: Thanks again Kurt Wyman

Squash Bug
Squash Bug

Dear Kurt,
Based on this BugGuide image, your insect looks like a Squash Bug,
Anasa tristis, and it has nothing to do with chewed leaves.  Squash Bugs have mouths designed to pierce the surfaces of plants so they can suck fluids.  According to BugGuide, they feed on “various cucurbits (members of the squash family), prefers pumpkin and squash.”  Do you have any nearby squash plants?

Daniel,
Thanks for the quick response.
I do in fact have some young squash plants.  I actually am not sure if it is a pumpkin or or maybe spaghetti squash, they are volunteers who’s seeds I find in my worm castings.
Thanks again,
Kurt

Letter 2 – Squash Bug

 

Subject:  What insect is this
Geographic location of the bug:  Illinois
Date: 08/11/2018
Time: 06:16 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Was  curious as to what these lil guys are. Please help..thank u
How you want your letter signed:  Bugguy

Squash Bug

Dear Bugguy,
This is a Squash Bug, and according to BugGuide:  “Hosts: various cucurbits (members of the squash family), prefers pumpkin and squash” and “
the most injurious coreid in FL causes wilting and blackening of leaves; can transmit cucurbit yellow vine disease.”

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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