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The Joy of Hunting Squash Bugs

squash bugs and eggs close up

squash bugs and eggs close up

It is time to hunt squash bugs if you hope to harvest any zucchini this year.  If your squash or melon plants are looking droopy or turning brown, it may not be a need for water.  It is likely that squash bugs are sucking the life out of them. (click any picture to enlarge)

As you probably already know, squash bugs are very hard to kill by any other method than mashing them between rocks.  That is why I suggest teaching the joy of squash bug hunting to your children at an early age!  They don’t even have to like to eat zucchini to be entertained by the mission.  It is a very interactive science project!

One of my favorite resources, The Truth About Garden Remedies: What Works, What Doesn’t, and Why by Jeff Gillman, points out that all beetles are resistant to pesticides because of their exoskeleton.  He recommends Bacillus thuringiensis, which they have to ingest, but this won’t deal with the eggs.  Another good garden help book, Rodale’s Vegetable Garden Problem Solver talks about insecticidal soap for the adults and nymphs, which are a ghastly grey color. (check out this University of Minnesota website for more pictures and information.)  I find that it takes less time to just manually pick them all off at the same time.

Take scissors and an empty old plastic container, with lid, out with you.  I always wear gloves.  First, try to look under the plant without disturbing the foliage.  The adults tend to sit along the stems and under the base of the leaves.  They are fast, so it can kind of be likegrasp the pebble from my hand.”  Fun for the kids, good reflex training for the adults.  Do it together and laugh.  The squash bugs don’t seem affected by sound.

If you don’t want to pulverize the critters (some of the kids think this results in an unpleasant stink), it works to put some isopropyl alcohol in the bottom of the container.  They will die quickly in that.  I personally like to make sure the aliens ruinous creatures are going to die and not repopulate some other location and spread back enmasse to my acre.

You should look under each leaf for the little golden eggs.  They stick too well, so we either carefully tear off or cut out the section of leaf to which they are adhered.  They can be put in the same container.  Although you should keep the lid on it throughout the hunt (otherwise the adults will tend to crawl out), they don’t jump like grasshoppers.

squash bug eggs  cut out of leaf

squash bug eggs cut out of leaf









You will need to check back every few days.  Some of the adults hideout in the dirt and the nymphs can be invisible.  It is necessary, because if they get a foothold the plant may never recover.  You will have to listen to all those stories of abundant zucchini with sorrow.

Have any of you had good success with other methods of control?

healthy young zucchini plant

healthy young zucchini plant


  • Icky. I am not one of the ‘children’ for whom squash bug hunting holds any joy!

  • I apparently didn’t begin young enough with you! I made many mistakes.

  • Cindy

    I have still been impressed by the Garlic and a little soap pureed in a quart of water that I pour into the heart of the plant and sends those bugs retreating like a bunch of foolish uninformed kids heading to an occupy movement meet up. You pour that into the base of the plant and they all come marching out, dazed and confused and you just knock them into your collection jar.

  • Thanks, Cindy! That sounds like a good way to begin the hunt. Since we often find both adults and juveniles higher up on the stems, we have to use the simple hand grasp method, too. The kids didn’t like messing with the garlic liquid themselves, but I may do it more when I’m on my own.

  • Alice

    When will they leave or is this an all summer long battle?

  • I think that if they are kept under control until late August, you shouldn’t have to worry about it as much after that. However, just like with weeding, any control you can manage this season will mean less of an infestation the next. Thanks for the question/comment!

  • While lifting a leaf to scan for eggs on this morning’s hunt, I found a particularly daring squash bug. Looking down after knocking him off a leaf, I saw him coiled and prepared to strike, just like a big hopper spider… He died. After all, I couldn’t let him pass ThAT attitude along.

  • Yes, Natalie, that was a good one to eliminate from the gene pool!

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