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Squash Bugs Are Eating My Zucchini

Updated on September 6, 2015

This Is Not For The Squimish

It is hot outside and I am cranky. The neighbors across the street think I am crazy and I want zucchini.

We had squash for dinner tonight and it was delicious. There have been wonderful hubs like hyphenbirds hub on zucchini chips that I have been collecting this summer. Usually by now we should be a little tired of squash. Not so this summer, unfortunately I didn't identify the bugs on the plants right away. I thought they were good bugs. They suck the life out of beautiful squash flowers like a vacuum.

A picture of soldier beetles on a sheet about beneficial bugs in the garden lead me astray. They looked sort of like the beetles I saw in the garden. I was wrong. Terribly wrong. In the past when I have seen these beetles, usually late in the summer I squash them. This year because I saw that picture mercy knew no limits. No more mercy for those squash suckers.

Now there is news of terrible plagues of Soldier Beetles. What is a poor gardener to do?

Mistaken Identity

Adult beetle that I thought was a Soldier beetle attacking whatever was eating my squash. In reality they are different stages of the same bugs
Adult beetle that I thought was a Soldier beetle attacking whatever was eating my squash. In reality they are different stages of the same bugs | Source

Under Seige

A full blown attack is waging in the front yard. Agony, watching beautiful zucchini plants wither, the lifeblood sucked out of them. So far the cantaloupe in the back seem fine, but the enemy is ruthless. It flies, crawls, hides, lays eggs and sucks the life out of the plants. As adults they are nearly impossible to kill, the eggs are laid on the underside of the leaves, stick like glue as they seek to produce more soldiers for the army.

Learning about squash bugs causes me more concern. The University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources confirms squash bugs are indeed the problem.

Plan Of Attack

  • Clear any weeds that may be around plants.
  • Feed plants with a good organic vegetable food.
  • Keep plants well watered.
  • Consult on-line consultants like your State Universality
  • Go to your local nursery.

After I decided I was losing the battle I went looking for my bottle of Captain Jack's Dead Bug Brew. I tried it on the little gray bugs that I thought were the culprits. It has Spinosad, a microbial, fast acting organic solution that is toxic to bugs. It didn't seem to slow the feeding frenzy. Then I went back to the University of California Davis Ag site. I couldn't believe there were no natural predators for these bugs.

Small Gray Spider Like Bugs Surround Leaves

Various stages of squash bugs
Various stages of squash bugs | Source

There are so many different sizes colors and shapes could these all be squash bugs? "Yes, they are." my master gardener said "They are hard to get rid of. You can plant radishes. That might help". Yeah, a little late for that. Captain Jacks Dead Bug Brew is good. I have had really good results with Captain Jack, but he didn't help much with these squash killers.

They say late in the season there is little to worry about concerning squash bugs. Not helpful during prime production time. Hunger for squash is causing great anguish. Two plants are gone. Trying desperately to save the rest of the garden. Melons are just ripening, so they have to be protected. Squash bugs attack melons also.

R2D2 Started Out As A Rainbow Vacuum


Several articles said hand pick bugs off the plants, then throw into sudsy water. There are hundreds of bugs and they run fast. I needed water and force. If force be the key then R2D2 came to the rescue. Yes, Star Wars R2D2 was originally made out of a Rainbow vacuum cleaner. The basin that dirt goes into is full of water. I added bleach, because soap makes R2 choke. Vacuumed those plant suckers on Sunday night, and Tuesday night, The neighborhood is full of gardeners, but the new people across the street think I am crazy. Saturday the war on the zucchini plants was lost. The yellow squash are withstanding the attack a bit better than the zucchini did.

Sad ending to the first battle.
Sad ending to the first battle. | Source

Difficult To Eradicate

These bug are difficult to eradicate. Identifying the culprit early then attack with everything you can. Hand pick the adult beetles and throw into soapy water. Vacuum every little bug and egg you can spot and keep picking until you see no more. I picked a very sluggish adult off the yellow squash this morning day 12 of the battle.

I love the master gardeners at the farmers market. They have such good ideas. One of my favorite gardener told me, "If you don't want to kill your snails and squash bugs put them into a container and take them to the duck pond. Bugs make much better food for the ducks than bread".

Why didn't I go out to the farm and borrow some chickens or ducks? They would have gotten the job done, and fertilized the garden. Good idea for next year.

Next summer we plant radishes everywhere we plant squash and melons.

Yellow Squash First Bloom After Bug Attack

Yellow squash did survive. Hooray!
Yellow squash did survive. Hooray! | Source

The Last Squash

We had summer here until the early November. We ate our last squash from the surviving squash plant last night.( December 4) Yum.

Remember, these vermin live through the winter, so clear away bug infested plants so these beasts will be on notice not to show up in next years garden.

Radishes don't grow here during the summer band it is too hot. So the plan is planting them as a spring crop. Then we will see if they really are a deterrent to squash bugs.

If you don't especially like radishes, no worries. You can always share them with the neighbors or your local women's shelter or food bank. Food should never go to waste.


Summer Once Again

It's been a warm spring. The squash are doing splendidly producing to their fullest. Planted radishes right next to the squash and they are flourishing.

Until last week.

While weeding the zucchini just started drooping. Checked for bugs and found a couple of huge squash beetles. Immediately squashed them. Picked some radishes and ground them with some water in the blender, then poured the solutions over the plants.

My friend told me years ago to find the tomato worm attacking your tomato grind up the worm in the blender then pour solution around the plant. That works so why shouldn't ground radish work.

Next morning the plants were bright and beautiful.

The Battle Continues

After several days of strong vibrant plants...

The flowers are still withering on the vine. The squash look haggard, but we may be winning, just picked another beetle off the vine. Researching organic pesticides I discovered this hub by Joe Macho concerning hydrogen peroxide as a pesticide. I just mixed up a batch and sprayed the larva on the underside of the leaves. Hopefully this will do the trick. Stay tuned for the results.

A More Savvy Gardener

I am now a more savvy gardener. When I find a bug I don't recognize I pick a sample and take it to the local nursery. This summer my sample turned out to be an Elder Box Beetle. In small numbers there is no problem. While determining whether to return him to my garden I mentioned squash beetles. The master gardener just laughed, "Nothing works, but a vacuum". At least I'm not the only crazy who uses a vacuum in her garden. We have had a hot summer here and squash doesn't seem to be too happy about it, but I haven't had any squash beetles either.

Happy Gardening!


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    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 5 years ago from California

      adjkp25, I think you are correct about the chickens. I don't know why I didn't borrow some chickens. If I get any hint of bugs next year I will fence the veggies and borrow some fowl.

    • adjkp25 profile image

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      I guess we have been lucky all of these years because we haven't had these bugs attacking our zucchini plants. Honestly I would probably give the credit to our chickens, they are devastating to any bug population.

      Voted up and useful.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 5 years ago from California

      sgbrown- Great of you to visit. I can today declare a bit of victory. I picked a squash off the plant I saved and there are more on the way. Our weather is still hot and the plants are loving it.

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 5 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      We fight those horrible squash bugs every year. This year was really bad, I eventually lost all 6 of my plants! I have tried everything except picking them off the plants. Eww! I can't do it!!! I do have a Rainbow Vac though! I don't have any neighbors that can see my garden, so the only one that will think I am crazy is hubby and he already knows I am! I will be planting radishes next year! Great hub, voting up and useful! :)

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 5 years ago from California

      myawn, Did your melons suddenly get a lot of water after a dry period. I am assuming watermelons are like grapes. Once they reach a certain period in their maturity they don't need water. I did that with my cantaloup and lost a couple. Squash bugs also eat melon vines.

      DeborahNeyens I hope the butternut squash survived. I love butternut squash soup.

    • myawn profile image

      myawn 5 years ago from Florida

      I love squash sorry bout your bugs. I planted watermelon they were so nice and pretty then far some reason they would spilt open and the ants ate them so I gave up.The tomatoes were good no problems..

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 5 years ago from Iowa

      I lost both my zucchini plants to squash bugs this year and am fighting a losing battle to save the butternut squash. Grrrr ....

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 5 years ago from south Florida

      Watch your back, tireless... I heard that the squash-eating beetles have regrouped. Put your vacuum cleaner on the ready!

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 5 years ago from Dubai

      Great hub, useful information - keep squashing them bugs!!

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 5 years ago from California

      Lipnancy, Your husband must be a fine man. I must confess I was ready to get the heavy duty pesticides, but that wouldn't have made for a very exciting hub.

      stessily- Thank you. Its interesting how much you want something when you can't get it.

      Jackie and nancynurse, Thank you for visiting. I chuckle every time

      I look at that picture of my vacuum cleaner. Laughter is the best medicine for no zucchini.

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 5 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      And I laughed at my husband for vacuuming bugs off our house plants. Unfortunately, it did not work for our house plants but if the beetles ever come back on the outside plants, I will give this method a try.

    • profile image

      stessily 5 years ago

      timeless traveler, My condolences on the sad loss of your zucchini! At this time of the summer, I am loving all the different, easy recipes in my file for zucchini. Fortunately or unfortunately, I did not plant a garden this year; I just would not want to go through what you're going through --- that would be a huge disappointment! It's been a weird summer; the chestnuts and black walnuts do not look at all promising, but instead are sorry shades of their usually glorious selves.

      Appreciatively, Stessily

    • nancynurse profile image

      Nancy McClintock 5 years ago from Southeast USA

      Funny, interesting and very well written. Great pictures and explanations. Voted up.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 5 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Ewww I know! I did try some crushed red pepper mixed with water and sprayed on the leaves and it seemed to help though. Thanks for the radish tips!