Kitchen Gardening

Video: Squash Bug Control

Here are some organic solutions to control squash bugs, featuring an insecticidal soap recipe.

Produced by: Greg Holdsworth

The squash bug, Anasa tristis, is a common pest throughout the United States, and can be one of the most destructive garden pests. The damage it causes can result in wilting of vines, damaged leaves or fruit, or even the entire plant being destroyed. The damage can also encourage disease. The squash bug will attack all members of the cucurbit family but are most common on squash and pumpkins.

So how’s one to combat this ruthless foe?

The most common organic methods used consist of the following.

1. A preventive method is to crush the eggs that they lay on the plant’s leaves, which tend to be laid in clusters (not mentioned in video). This is commonly on the undersides of leaves, branches or fruit. They are football-shaped and gold/bronze-colored.

2. Hand pick (or vacuum!) the bugs directly from the plants. After you grab ’em, destroy them or let them drown in a bucket of soapy water. This can be challenging and time-consuming because they move quickly or fly away when disturbed.

3. You can also trap squash bugs by laying out boards, boxes, paper, or other flat objects near your plants. They like to hide under these at night. You can then capture them or squish ’em under said objects (the crunching noise is quite enjoyable).

This video, however, focuses on another effective method, spraying them with an insecticidal soap spray. The recipe is ridiculously easy to make and inexpensive:

• 1-2 Tbsp liquid soap
• 1 quart (32 fl. oz.) water – regular or city water is fine
• 1 quart (32 fl. oz.) spray bottle – get a good quality one with an adjustable nozzle and comfortable grip

I chose Dr. Bronner’s liquid Castile Soap, as it is organic and vegetable-based. Any regular dishwashing soap should also work. If the amount or strength of the soap is too much, the plant’s leaves may be burned, so try the mixture on a small area of the affected plant.

Add the water and liquid soap to the spray bottle. Mix well. The mixture is not meant to be “preventive”, that is, just sprayed on the plants to protect them from future attacks. The mixture will only work if it’s sprayed directly on the bugs. So “don’t spare the soap” as my father used to say and fire at will!

Try it out and I hope it works for you.

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