These Bugs Could Squash Your Summer Garden Plans

Our Texas insect expert answers common questions about bugs.

By Laura RiceJune 2, 2016 11:20 am

Have you ever grown beautiful, healthy squash, only to have them mysteriously die? You might be dealing with squash vine borers. Wizzie Brown, an insect specialist with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office, has some tips on how to keep them from ruining your garden.

What do they look like?

“If you grow squash and you live in central Texas, you probably have dealt with a squash vine borer. These are a larvae – so, the caterpillar of a moth. The moth doesn’t really look like a moth. It’s kind of weird. It’s kind of a blueish-black color and this bright orange color. The adult is just kind of the foreboding thing, or the forewarning that you get. If you see these flying around your squash, be aware that squash vine borer is going to come.”

How do they kill your squash?

“(Moths) will lay these little brown kind of donut-shaped eggs on the plant. When the egg hatches, the larvae bores into the stem of the squash and they will live inside the stem and they will bore through it. So if you’re unaware that you have squash vine borers, it’ll be like your squash is doing fabulous, and it’s just looking green and beautiful and then you come out the next day and it’s dead.”

What can I do to prevent them?

“It’s an insect that you really can’t do a whole lot about. What you can do is try to avoid it in several ways. One is by covering your squash with row cover before the squash vine borer infests, and you would need to either hand pollinate your squash, or take your row cover off while its blooming. The other option is to cut the vine open, find the larvae inside and remove it, then plant the vine again and hope that it takes root. Another option is to plant more resistant varieties of squash, and those are typically the squash that root wherever it hits ground.”