I swear this is the year of the worm. Due to the warm New Jersey winter, every bug in town survived. In my five years of gardening, I NEVER had squash vine borers. But this year I became Dr Anna and cut out the worms without using pesticides. However, I was too late. The damage was too great. (*Sniff*) Trust me. I don’t want these squash vine borers to get the best of your crop. Read on and stop them in their tracks.
To be honest, I hate lifting up my squash vines because the vines cause a rash on my arms. Plus, the vines hurt. (For good reason, raccoon don’t like stepping on the vines.) But you have to look at where the vines join especially at the root. (See the picture below.)
- You will see green poop or a mash of yellow/orange goo. It kind of looks like raw pumpkin goo.
- The vines are wilting
- The stems are woody and soft.
- And you want to cry. Well, at least I did.
When to Start Worrying
I am a worry kind of gardener. Kind of like the glass half full or waiting with bated breath for the first bug or animal attack. Good news is according the University of Minnesota, there is only one attack in June/July in you live in the North.
Mother Earth News states be mindful early June in the South and late June/July in the North. According to UM,
“Beginning in late June or early July, squash vine borer adults emerge from cocoons in the ground. Squash vine borer adults are good fliers for moths and resemble wasps in flight. These moths are unusual because they fly during the day while nearly all other moths fly at night. “Soon after emerging, squash vine borers lay eggs singly at the base of susceptible plants. Approximately one week after they are laid, the eggs hatch and the resulting larvae bore into stems to feed. The larvae feed through the center of the stems, blocking the flow of water to the rest of the plant. The larvae feed for four to six weeks, then exit the stems and burrow about one to two inches into the soil to pupate. They remain there until the following summer. There is one generation per year.”
In the South, the University of Kentucky mentions that there can be two generations of this awful bug. Lovely.
Don the Gloves and Cut the Suckers Out
Performed surgery on your plants. Yep, Dr. Anna was in the house. I had a serious case of worms. My plants had multiple front doors for these squash eaters to enter. I took a knife where I saw the orange goo, and slit open the vine.
Sometimes, I cut completely threw. Perhaps I should have uses a razor blade or someone else who is much more adept with knives. Then I kept cutting until I found him or her and their siblings. Sometimes I had about three or four of those worms just in one area. (Collective “ewww.”)
Be sure to have a pail of soaping water to kill them. Don’t forget the soap since they will just climb out of your bucket. (Been there and done that with my slugs.) I check every section of my vine. It was a blood bath. After I cut, I covered the vine with dirt.
Some of the plant didn’t live. Other parts were fine but this year I have lots of blooms and no pollination. I can’t seem to find any “female” blossoms.
I don’t know if this is a double edge sword, but I was told to cover the vine ever few feet with dirt so it roots just in case part of the vine dies. The bad part is its just another place for those bugs to lay eggs.
If you are cut a phobic, I have some more juicy ways to flush those guys out. Read tomorrow. One involved a toothpick. Just saying…
Join the Conversation:
- Did you have the attack of the squash vine borer this year?
- Did you lose your squash crop because of these worms?
- What steps have you taken to reduce your squash vine borers damage?