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Squash Bugs -- Identification and Control

Updated on December 9, 2016

Are Squash Bugs Eating Up Your Zucchinis?

Squash bugs can really destroy your gourd crops -- once they get some momentum, they can be very hard to eradicate. They belong to the family of insects known as the "true bugs," the Hemiptera. Squash bugs use their piercing mouthparts to suck juices from leaves and stems, and the result is a very sick plant. This article tells you everything you need to know about these bugs, including what you can do to protect your zucchinis and acorns from these insects.

Squash Bugs on Zucchini

Zucchini are popular, tasty, and easy to grow -- and a big favorite of squash bugs. If you have zucchini squash in your garden there is a very good chance you are hosting some squash bugs as well. This may be a good time to get very up close and personal with your zucchini plants, to see if there are any bad characters lurking about under those big, dark green leaves.

This image or file is a work of a United States Department of Agriculture employee, taken or made during the course of an employee's official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.

Insect Soap Works Against Squash Bugs!

Forget harsh and toxic chemicals -- it turns out that a specialized mild detergent is capable of deterring squash bugs,a s well as some other bugs such as aphids. It may take several applications, but this approach is easy on the environment and hard on plant-based insects like squash bugs.

Squash Bugs Identification: Nymphs

Squash bugs, and all Hemipterids, undergo what is known as incomplete metamorphosis. This means that the young resemble the adults, and they simply shed their skins as they grow, until they are full-grown. One way to tell nymphs, as the young are known from the adults is that adults have compound eyes made up of many tiny lenses. Butterflies, moths, beetles, bees, and other insects undergo complete metamorphosis, which means there are different stages that don't resemble each other at all -- think about how different a caterpillar and a butterfly are, and you get the idea.

In this photo, dozens of squash bugs at different stages of development are seen gathered on a squash plant. There may be very young and adults bugs mixed together in a "community" like this.

By Pollinator at en.wikipedia [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-2.5 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], from Wikimedia Commons

Scientific Classification of Squash Bugs: True Bugs

This is a color plate from a turn-of-the-century guide book of the insects. It is surprisingly accurate, even though now scientists rely on DNA sequencing to more accurately group insects. Just because on bug looks like another doesn't mean they're related. Squash bugs are related to stink bugs and other Hemipterids, and may also share ancestors with cockroaches and cicadas. Aphids, like squash bugs, suck plant juices through sharp, straw-like mouthparts, though their life cycles are quite different.

By Amyot et Audinet Serville, numérisation Broken Rusk [Public domain, Public domain, Public domain, Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Squash Bugs Nymphs -- Later Stage

This very cool customer is a mid-level Hemipterid nymph. It generally resembles the adult, except for the non-compound eyes, and will have very similar habits: wake up, suck squash juice all day long through its long, tube-like mouthparts, and go to bed. Give them time, and these little monsters will completely wreck your gourd plants.

By Richard Bartz, Munich aka Makro Freak (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Squash Bug Mouth Parts

This drawing shows you how the squash bug's mouthparts work; basically they are a little straw through which the insect draws a very tiny amount of plant juice or sap. The problem isn't one or two aphids -- it's thousands of aphids, which when feeding together can completely bring down even the largest, healthiest plants.

By Maxwell Lefroy (Manual of Entomology) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Squash Bugs Identification: Adults

Squash bugs are brown-orange, have six legs, and can fly. They look a little like flattened beetles. The adult squash bug, like all bugs, is a marvel of natural selection. Able to fly, crawl, run, reproduce like crazy, withstand heat and cold, and give off a strong odor when harassed to defend itself, this squash bug is a formidable enemy to your gardening dreams. If you see one, you probably have dozens lurking under the leaves, and they are not easy to get rid of. A good, non-toxic plant soap should do the trick, but it will take time and patience!

By Muhammad Mahdi Karim (www.micro2macro.net) Facebook (Own work) [GFDL 1.2 (www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Be Sure What Kind of Bug You're Dealing With!

When you know what the bug is, you know what to do. If you can't tell what it is, How would you know what to do?

Secrets of the Zucchini Plant

This photo perfectly illustrates the dark and complex leaves and stems of a healthy zucchini plant. Squash bugs get down into the folds and crevices of the plant, and do their damage in the course of feeding and reproducing. Just two squash bugs can quickly mate to produce dozens, and eventually hundreds of hungry little bugs.

By Nogatonga at en.wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Squash Bug Damage

http://www.vegedge.umn.edu/mnvegnew/vol4/823sqbg.h...

This is the sad outcome of a squash bug infestation run rampant. Without the necessary nutrients delivered by a healthy vascular system, the leaves have shriveled and shrunk. The leaves have literally starved to death, because the squash bugs have succeeded in hijacking all of the good stuff. It's just not fair! Help your plants fight back with a good, non-toxic pesticide soap, which is really just a mild oil-based detergent that will block the bugs' breathing apparatus.

Control Squash Bugs for Cheap! - Squash Bug Control on eBay

Squash bugs can be controlled with a very basic product -- insect soap. Save money by getting insect soap on eBay!

A Bug, but NOT a Squash Bug

This is a good-looking relative of the squash bug. It uses its sharp, sucking mouthparts to spear other insects and suck out their juices. It especially likes caterpillars, which means it is your friend if you are a gardener. Now if we could just get good bugs like this to go after the bad squash bugs! Unfortunately, cases of bug-on-bug predation are not well-documented (though they may well occur).

By Pouts31 (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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    • Steph Tietjen profile image

      Stephanie Tietjen 5 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico

      I get squash bugs on my zucchini, but they don't seem to do much damage. I plant several plants so it all works out. Good to know what to do if I need it. Thanks