June is the beginning of summer, kids get out of school, and graduations. For gardeners it is the beginning of squash vine borer season. Yes, the dreaded squash vine borer that can decimate your pumpkin and squash crop with a blink of an eye. In fact last year, I think the borer also attacked my melon plants . The best way to avoid these bugs is with a good offense. Listed below are preventative tips to catch those buggers before they eat you out of house and pumpkin.
The borer usually appears in late spring but check with your agricultural extension when to be on the outlook for these moths.
How to Keep an Eye Out For Them
There are several ways you can keep your eyes peeled for those ugly moths. (My apologizes Mother Nature, but I am not a fan of this bug.)
1. Learn what these bugs look like. They sound like a wasp and they fly during the day. Most moths fly at night.
2. These bugs overwinter and lay eggs at the base of your plants. Check the base of your plants and leaves regularly during their season. In zone 6, they appear at the end of June.
3. Put out yellow traps to find out when they are active. Any yellow bowl with water will do. They are attracted to the color yellow. If you find one in the bowl, you know you need to be on the outlook for these bugs.
4. Consider growing butternut squash (as well as other varieties classified as cucurbita moschata,) snake gourd or cucuzza, which are resistant to the squash vine borer. University of Illinois adds that the green striped cushaw is fairly tolerant to borers.
5. Spray the base of the plants with Surround kaolin clay. I haven’t tried this method but I am thinking about it especially for my apple trees.
Once they are active…
1. Cover squash with row covers until they start blooming. (Just to be extra-vigilant, you should probably cover them earlier than when the squash vine borer is supposed to emerge.)
2. Start monitoring the plants looking for brown eyes. Check the leaves and base of the plants.
3. I put aluminium foil or knee high panty hose around the base of each plant in June. (See picture above.) The aluminium is wrapped around all my squash (winter and summer,) melons, cucumbers and pumpkins. Last year, they killed my pumpkins and almost killed my zucchini.
If Your Plants are Attacked
If your plants have an orange sponge like substance at the base, they have several worms inside your plants. HERE is a picture of one my plants from a couple of years ago. (You will also see what the worms look like.)
1. If you have a long season, you can replant.
3. Destroy the plants that succumbed to the borer. Toxic Free NC states:
“Plants that have been killed by squash vine borers or are past the point of saving should be removed from the garden along with their resident pests. Seal them together into a trash bag and leave them in the sun for a few days to bake. That way the caterpillars do not have a chance to move into your soil to pupate. Lightly tilling your garden soil in the fall can reduce the number of squash vine borers the next year by exposing pupae to predators and freezing temperatures.”
4. If you have chickens, let them clean up your beds each fall and spring to eat the cocoons.
5. Always rotate your crops. Never plant squash in the same place for 3 years. I till my beds in the spring and fall looking for the cocoons. They tend to be an inch deep. HERE is a picture of their cocoon.
Join the Conversation:
How do you prevent squash vine borers from killing your plants?
Photo by Jim, the Photographer of the squash borer.
Photo by Raleigh Farms of the eggs.
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