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Homemade Squisher for Squash Bug Control

By Cheryl Long  

Squash bugSome years ago, I wrote a report about research done at Texas A&M that found trap crops of early plantings of squash could attract “up to 90 percent of squash bugs in the area.” The key is to plant a few pots of squash indoors, earlier than your usual timing (the bugs are reportedly most attracted to winter squash varieties), then move the plants into the garden as soon as you can. Overwintering squash bugs will make a beeline for them (who knows how they find these plants — bugs are so amazing). The researchers suggested laying a few boards on the ground around the trap crop and then turning the boards over and squishing the bugs that like to hide on the undersides. Delay sowing your main crops as long as you can, continuing to squish the bugs that show up at the trap crop. 

We’ve come up with what we think might be an improvement on that technique: a “Squash Bug Squisher”! Instead of just using whatever is handy to squish the bugs on each board, we’re thinking it would be quicker and more effective if you connected two boards together with hinges, so you could pick up the Squisher, flip it over and slam the two boards against each other. The boards will have to be very flat — we’re thinking that fiber cement siding, which is highly resistant to warping and heavier than wood, might work well. 

We invite you to try this homemade technique for squash bug control, and report your results below. Reports on other squash bug control methods that have worked for you are also welcome. Happy gardening! 

p.s. Check out our article Growing Winter Squash for growing tips and advice about fun varieties to try.   


UPDATE: A few MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers tried the Squash Bug Squisher and emailed us their feedback:  

“I laid out some boards to attract the bugs and found some there; however, I still lost my yellow squash and zucchini which are from the Cucurbita pepo family. In the fall, I had a volunteer yellow squash and had no insect problems with it. This spring, I will be trying other squash families (Cucurbita moschata, Cucurbita maxima, etc.) that don't have problems with the squash bugs. In the fall, I will try growing yellow squash (C. pepo).” — Ed Nance   

“I made up a Squash Bug Squisher. It worked well. I only killed a few, but the fewer the better! I will try again this summer.” — John Hoepfner   


After reading the instructions on how to make a Squash Bug Squisher, many readers were happy to share additional tips. Here are some of our favorites:  

“Rather than using Cucurbita pepo family of squash (yellow squash, etc.), consider using plantings from the Cucurbita moschata or Cucurbita maxima families of squash, which are more resistant. I have tried the boards and found cucumber beetles the first time under them the first time I checked, but none since.” — Ed Nance   

“We have used old newspapers (several pages folded into long strips) and had fair results. Simply check them once a week, roll them up and incinerate them, using the ashes as an addition to your compost. The board trick is a good idea!” — Chef Todd 

“Oh, this inspires me to limericize:  
In Miss Fisher’s squash garden, quite posh, 
Two squash bugs were looking for squash. 
The crafty Miss Fisher  
Used her hinged squash-bug squisher, 
And squished those two squash bugs, by Gosh!” — Lon and Nancy Reid   

“Bugs find plants by SMELL. No secret! Cover the scent of the squash plant and they will totally miss it! You must plant many herbs and flowers in the organic garden. The scents blend together and confuse bugs. I am testing lemon grass in my garden this year.” — Larry Vogel   

“[The Squash Bug Squisher] is a good idea, but I still like my hammer.” — Doug Elam   

“I am much too squeamish to squish bugs, so my garden was just wiped out last year. But my friend’s dad invented a method that is so simple, so fast — it’s pure genious! I imagine he probably resorted to this in a fit of frustration. He just filled his Shop-Vac with a few inches of water, sucked up, and drowned all those nasty little buggers. Isn’t that brilliant? Talk about fast — and no icky guts! I'm thinking about trying it — carefully — on aphids!” — Chloie Leavitt   

“You forgot to mention to have your chickens or ducks help by eating the bugs!” — Rich Laren   


A couple of good slug control tips worth sharing came in the comments, too:  

“I have just started using building lime to protect my seedlings from slugs and it seems to work. Building lime Ca(OH)2 is alkaline and the slugs will not cross it. After about a week it turns to limestone CaCO3 through reaction with the air in the presence of moisture (so you just sprinkle some more then). I have been spreading it thinly — just a dusting. You have to be careful with building lime: Don't breathe in the dust or get it on your hands because it is caustic. But birds and animals are not going to eat it like normal slug bait.” — Brian White   

“I remember gardening in Oregon and having to open the Slug Bar each spring and early summer until it got too hot for them. Basically, a coffee can with holes in the side set in the ground with cheap beer in the bottom. They are lushes after all. I kept the good beer for my own medicinal purposes.” — Norm Nyburg 

Post a comment below.


9/5/2011 4:15:33 PM
Last year made compost tea 3-4 times/week, didn't have pest problems at all. this year not as active and the pests took advantage. made compost tea brewer using a tub, 110v raft inflater and a round the clock 15min on timer. hook a hose (vac hose) to inflater weight it, not too much. hang compost in a plastic onion sack over top of hose opening to reduce splashing. add whatever you have, from old jelly to soy sauce, make sure not to much salt. need some sourc of vitamin C and sugar. should produce tea as good as those $700 brewers. Apply how you like, sling it, spray it, dump it, pour it. Use it often, the more the better. Walla,happy gardening.

Sharon Tittle
7/19/2011 4:54:34 PM
I have long stem, cup like mushrooms coming up in my vegetable garden. Every day there are new ones, but by the end of the day they die. Should I be concerned, do they harm the soil/plants ? Should I be pulling them out, spray them (with organic spray)or just leave them alone ? Help!

Dane Byers_2
7/31/2010 3:41:58 PM
Our Butternut squash vines were devasted by squash bugs - I found a great organic pesticide - Dr. Bronner's Magic Castile Soap (also Kirk's Magic Coco Castile Soap, but much harder to find). Dr. Bronner's can be found at Earthfare, TraderJoes, etc...The best-working soaps were Dr Bonner's All-one Hemp Eucalyptus and Dr. Bonner's All-one Hemp Peppermint. I think the key is the "Castile" version. Both concoctions killed both adults and larvae almost on was kinda fun to see them walk then just stop - they didn't quiver or anything, they just stopped moving in their tracks and were dead. The Eucalyptus version seemed to work faster. Shave about 1/2 of the soap bar into small shavings and place into a gently-boiling pot of water (about 32 ounces), once the soap is dissolved (don't stir it too much or it will foam over), cool it for a few minutes and put into a hand spayer, then just spray on the little critters and watch them die almost instantly. We also tried the cypress-mulch tea that was recommended here, it didn't do shit...the soap is awesome though...killed all the bugs on contact.

Janet Cruz
7/11/2010 11:57:46 PM
I lost almost all my squash plants to squash bugs and borers for a few years, till I learned to rotate the crops to far different corners of my garden, in a three year rotation. No more problem with the bugs.

Julia Rain
6/6/2010 10:56:34 PM
We've got them too, out on Guam and we just had our battle with them last weekend. I use an electronic bug zapper to stun them (won't kill adults but will fry young and eggs) and then we pick them up and throw them into the old barbecue to burn them along with some coconut husk to repel mosquitoes and chase out flying insects from the garden. Anyhow, marigold, radish, nasturtium, mints, tansy, and catnip will repel squash bugs. And both garlic oil and neem oil sprays help some with control. Speaking of which, I've started using neem tree meal in my beds as an additive and it's cut back pest problems a hundred-fold. Bug juice is gross but works well for beetles, bugs, caterpillars, and slugs: Crush 1/2 cup of them in 2 cups of water, strain, and dilute 1/4 cup of this concentrate in 1-2 cups water to use as a spray. It repels the same pest and attracts their natural enemies. Great info source from They have non-chemical pest control info for the tropics (but these bugs are everywhere!). They have comprehensive info on a wide range of crops and their pests and diseases as well as how-to info on making traps, bug juice, and pest control sprays. They also have a document manager that makes it easy to download whatever docs you want.

john m_3
6/4/2010 7:55:52 PM
we need to address the squash vine borer. i live in central texas and we are innundated by the borers. the plants die on the verge of making squash. i am an organic gardener and have found that nothing works. i slit the stalks of a dying plant and throw the worms to the chickens. someone needs to find a solution. maybe infertal eggs the wasp lays. something. this present situation is rediculous. we went to the moon many years ago, but we cannot get rid of this threat to all manking?

6/4/2010 11:19:05 AM
It would be helpful if all commenters indicated the area of the country where they garden. I haven't had this problem in the Pacific NW, but wonder if it is something I should be on the alert for here.

6/4/2010 9:53:25 AM
The past 2 years we surrounded our plants with marigolds and nasturtiums...right next to each other. We also used a water/vanilla spray and sprayed all the plants. This seemed to help. We tried the boards but didn't have much success. p.s. Our hosta plants haven't been bothered by chickens!

6/4/2010 9:04:04 AM
I have a problem with grasshoppers. What works?

6/4/2010 8:44:05 AM
I have heard that if you collect the bugs put them in an old blender with a bit of hot pepper sauce and garlic with water. Blend it up and spray on the plants the blended bugs make everything else work better. Going to try this year.

4/4/2010 11:36:26 AM

4/1/2010 9:13:22 AM
Regarding chickens and Hostas- not a good idea unless you want to have all of your Hostas devoured by your chickens! They love 'em!

Mary McAvinchey
3/21/2010 8:32:22 AM
I haven't had too much trouble here in SE Michigan yet with squash bugs. A few not much. I am planning on having a couple of chickens in my patio hosta garden this year and am afraid they'll chow down on my hostas? Anyone have problems like this? I also do companion planting of garlic around all my cabbage, broccoli, and anything else that the little cabbage worms eat and never have a problem with them. I do need to know what to do organically about tiny green worms(hardly visible)that shred my hollyhocks every year if anyone has any ideas.

3/16/2010 6:05:29 PM
im doing companion planting but i will try anything to get rid of these buggers - propane torches do work - up to a point but when one plants as much as i do its kind of a problem but i do use that - i found out last year planting a bunch of painted daisies and nasturtiums work too - im planting more this year to help with getting em gone - but i will try setting out earlier and squishing em

Angela _1
3/15/2010 10:45:59 PM
I read about companion planting this year and plan to give it a go. Nasturtium is supposed to deter squash bugs and I think I read cucumber beetles. I also saw that it attracts aphids so it could be used as a trap plant. It just seems to me that using plants that deter would be a less intrusive and time consuming not to mention cheaper way to handle unwanted bugs.

3/14/2010 7:06:04 PM
I have had horrible problems with vine boring squash bugs and cucumber beetles for the last few years. I have used diatamacious earth which does the trick if you get it on the bugs or their eggs, but it must stay dry or loses its effectiveness. I have picked more bugs than a person should in a lifetime! This year I bought a propane torch so I can burn all of the leaf litter before I start planting. I am told that the eggs overwinter in the leaf litter.? My hens are not interested in these bugs, even if I give them a bucket of them. They must taste as bad as they act! I will also try your trick with the boards but I don't think I will go to the trouble of the hinges. I have too many hills to buy that many hinges. I am willing to try anything within reason and without poison, to save my zucchini and other squash and melons!

Gwen Roland
3/14/2010 6:02:11 PM
I'm in! Love the idea of citizen research projects. I planted my trap crop of butternut squash today,March 14, and will transplant them in a month or near last year's squash patch, so there should be some bugs hanging around there.

Jan in Texas_2
3/13/2010 11:34:55 PM
I don't have as much trouble with "Squash bugs" on my squash as I do with them destroying my tomatoes......

3/13/2010 3:09:49 PM
Squash bugs knock out all of my squash plants. One year I had baby turkeys in my garden and they did a great job. Otherwise I use the water in a jar method. I enjoy drowning the little critters.

3/13/2010 8:36:26 AM
I am going to try setting out my squash plants later than I usually do to try to avoid the squash bugs. My line of defense has been to peruse the plants as many times a day as possible looking for eggs underside leaves to squash with gloved fingers(very satisfying), as well as using scissors to cut the adult bugs into pieces (also very satisfying). If scissors aren't around, I just go thru and squash the bugs with frenzied gloved fingers. There are also stem borers to deal with, and I've gotten to where I can recognize the diurnal moth that lays the eggs and destroy it immediately, if possible. If a stem borer (moth larvae) inhabit the squash stem, it's a real bummer. I've tried slitting the stem and either pulling the larvae out with tweezers, or, if I can't locate the larvae, injecting neem oil into the stem. The latter method is my idea and I'm not sure how well it works, but at least I feel I've tried.

Rose Kern_2
3/12/2010 7:51:24 AM
My squash bug problem is controlled easily. I use a shop vac. Those horny little critters are always eating or pro creating - which means they're either too fat to move quickly or caught up in post-coital euphoria. Either way, once a week or so just run an electrical cord to the garden and hook up the shop vac. Start turning leaves and suck 'em up.

m brashear_2
3/11/2010 9:19:27 PM
I'm game. Squash bugs are big here in SW Ohio (about 12 miles east of Bath, IN). Will try your suggestion.

sandy petrarca_1
3/11/2010 6:42:11 AM
I am going to try it! They were not a great promblem last year, but have been in the past!

Karen Crow
3/9/2010 5:35:17 PM
We live in the Ozarks, and have had a real problem with squash bugs in the past. Now, we plant as early as possible, and by the time the bugs hit, we pull up the plants because we are tired of all that squash anyway. We also planted a late crop in August of last year, and although we didn't get as much squash as the spring crop, the little nasties had already left. This year we will plant a late crop in July to see what happens. I am also going to set out a few plants in the chicken pen, just to see what happens, although I suspect I will committing squash homicide.

Landen Bain
3/9/2010 5:26:50 PM
I'll give it a try. Squash bugs nearly destroyed a bed of butternuts last year. Once they get set in, it's a regular invasion.

Lisa D.
3/9/2010 1:54:03 PM
I'm game to try anything when it comes to eliminating squash bugs. They've been a huge problem at our current location. Thanks for sharing all the different methods.

Marsha Mckellep_3
3/9/2010 11:41:16 AM
I control my squash bugs by planting my squash and cucumbers right beside my cabbage, brocolli and cauliflower. The squash bugs will go after the cabbage worms and will leave the squash alone. Found this out a few years ago when I rearranged my garden and planted them beside each other. You do have to remove the old cabbge plants and such before the bugs migrate back to the squash. They will stay on the plants as long as there are worms present. After I harvest my cabbage and others, I pull the plants and feed them to my chickens.

3/9/2010 11:04:19 AM
Those are known as stink bugs around here. It sounds like too much trouble to do all of that squashing with the boards. Usually, towards the end of the growing season the little varmits decide to come inside our house. I cannot stand it! We do not have too many that attack our squash plants, but we do just grow summer squash.

Landen Bain
3/9/2010 10:37:56 AM
I'll give it a try. Squash bugs nearly destroyed a bed of butternuts last year. Once they get set in, it's a regular invasion.

3/9/2010 9:12:37 AM
last year those buggers ate most of my squash, so heck yeah, I'm in. I think it will be a great stress relief

Shelley Quiner_1
3/9/2010 8:08:44 AM
Sounds like too much work to me.. I just transplant my squash two weeks later than I would plant them in the ground.. The squash bugs have already found their host plants and tend to stay put.. Sincerely Shelley from Jemez Springs New Mexico.. Something of interest I find the bugs in my fruit trees early in the season.. I am going to try traps this year.

3/9/2010 7:17:29 AM
Around these parts, we call those stink bugs. Recycle two liter bottles and plastic jars by making stink bug traps, which are most effective just prior to and following the growing season(tinyurl links are provided for convenience if the actual link is too long to function properly from the post): I found these links informational, as well. On the NSAIS (National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service) site, about two thirds of the way down, they list some plants you can grow in your garden with your squash that is believed to discourage stink bugs from entering the garden. Growing some of these in conjunction with use of traps may significantly diminish the stink bug population in your garden. NSAIS Utah Pests Fact Sheet (PDF)

Russell Meyers
3/9/2010 1:22:43 AM
I'm new to gardening, less than one year out. So, maybe I'm naive but is it really a good idea to try and attract bugs to your garden? I understand squash and cucumber beetles are big problems here in my area. Know I've seen some around, even though I only grew a few pumpkin plants last year. Though a trap crop doesn't sound like a bad idea. Placing boards there may be a good thing. Our season is almost here in NM, so too late to try the early trap crop. Anything started now will become main crop. I am planting marigolds and garlic, which I read helps deter some pests. That and lots of other flowers, which may bring out wasps and other predatory bugs to help. I do like the chicken idea. Planning on getting some chicks in the next week or so. Let them run wild in the garden.

3/8/2010 10:30:50 PM
Three guinea squash bugs, cucumber beetles, or much of anything else that crawls or flies!

3/8/2010 10:25:17 PM
I had lots of pesky squash bugs but when there's any movement around them at all they scurry away very fast. I can't say I think the board thing would work - they'd run away too fast to get squashed. I had straw mulch in my garden rows - the cardboard sounds like it might work though.

3/8/2010 10:20:46 PM
I wonder why you couldn't put something sticky on the trap boards so you don't have to squish them. They were VERY bad last year, the chickens did not appear to be thrilled with them either.

3/8/2010 9:57:04 PM
I use a little handheld propane torch and I can torch colonies of squash bugs and cucumber beetles in one swipe of the flame! At the end of the year I leave a few pumpkins out and they gather and I fry them all.. It's instant and no bugs escape my garden. It pops eggs too, works really good for potato bug eggs.

Suzanne Cox_2
3/8/2010 9:17:36 PM
Last year, I converted a hand-held vac to a bug vac by taping on some flexible tubing. Works pretty well for all kinds of bugs, but you still need to pick off the eggs. I used a short piece of flexible 2 inch tubing for the end to be taped onto the vac opening (couldn't find any large enough to fit over the end), then made a narrow "V" cut in the far end, trimming out enough material to make it fit inside the large end of a shop vac hose adapter. Then, I believe, it was 3/4 inch tubing that fit almost perfectly in the smaller side of the adapter. I cut the small tubing about the length of my arm so I could hold the vac in one hand, and be able to easily reach up under the plant leaves with the other holding the open end of the tubing. Each joint had to be taped. If anyone comes up with better materials to use for making a hose, or an actual bug vac that has good reviews, I would love to know about it. I used duck tape, but it slips off after a little while.

3/8/2010 9:04:51 PM
I cant bend well, and would have trouble stomping or squishing fast enough, but maybe I can come up with a way(like train my grandkiddies lol)

3/8/2010 9:04:13 PM
I would have a problem bending fast and squishing fast enough, but may be able to adapt the idea(like training grandchidren) probably will give it a try

Skia Laurence_3
3/8/2010 8:30:06 PM
We got bugs like this in our community garden plot last year. I brought a mason jar full of soapy water out to the plot. My boyfriend and I went over the plants and picked off all the bugs we found and dropped them in the jar. I left the jar in the plot and we continued picking every time we visited the plot. Within a couple weeks, it was hard to find any bugs on the plants. We ended up with a good harvest.

3/8/2010 7:49:56 PM
How about using a rolling pin to squish the buggers on the boards? My biggest garden pest is the potato bug what suggestions do you folks have? Thanks, Melissa

jack cook_2
3/8/2010 7:46:40 PM
my bugs must be smarter. when i picked up the board they would drop off to the ground forcing me to chase them squashing them with my feet. I have found that wetting the plants in the afternoon with the hose causes them to come to the top of the leaves making them easier to pick off, that is the ones you can catch before they see you and drop off. we have a terrible problem!!!

Greg Sanders
3/8/2010 7:45:51 PM
These bugs and their evil relatives, the cucumber beetles, are some of my worst garden pests. I'll try the Squisher.

hazel Watson_2
3/8/2010 7:11:57 PM
Are you for real????

3/8/2010 6:54:23 PM
The bug squisher idea sounds good. But I'm lazy and I have a secret weapon. A banty hen named Callie. I'll turn over the wood and call her -- "Callie, Bugs!" She loves bugs of all sorts - dog ticks, tomato horn worms, water roaches and termite larvae....she is underfoot a lot trying to be the first to the bugs. Plus she pays me with eggs... can't beat that combo... Though there is a theraputic side to squishing the bugs yourself.

Patricia Curd
3/8/2010 6:37:27 PM
I like the Crop Trap idea. But why not step on the board to smash the bugs?

Lorraine Chambers
3/8/2010 6:34:06 PM
Wham bam with the wood and squash those varmints! Great handy dandy device. Thank you.

3/8/2010 6:15:50 PM
I had a horrible problem with squash bugs last year despite daily patrolling and picking off the bugs. I couldn't even grow zucchini! I'll definitely try this trick.

Julie Goulart_1
3/8/2010 6:05:59 PM
I grow my squashes in a seperate garden so that i can allow the chickens for pest control...they really are so wonderful! But hey im game...I'll give the squash sqwisher a try for mother....I'd try anything!

3/8/2010 5:58:52 PM
As luck would have it I happen to be growing some Acorn Squash IN my house at the moment, having started it on Jan 20th. It's blooming already. I also have some of that fiber cement siding having picked it up free off craigslist with some other stuff awhile back so I can easily assemble a squisher for this project. Will keep the community posted on results but I doubt I'll be popping the squash into the ground for at least another 6 weeks.

Janet Gardner_4
3/8/2010 4:06:42 PM
Why do we want to attract these pests in the first case? Years ago my neighbor put up Japanese beatle traps. The traps worked very well, however, they attracted beatles from, I think, a five-mile radius. On their way to the trap these beatles consumed their last meal at my garden. I would be more interested in methods that discouraged pests, not attracted them. Janet Gardner

Barry Bassett
3/8/2010 4:02:53 PM
I have found that if you lay 2 or 3 layers of cardboard(cutup boxes work well) in the garden, bugs love the corrigation, then roll up first thing in the morning. Then the cardboard can be disposed of, I am able to burn mine. Bye Bye bugs.

Tim Brady
3/8/2010 4:02:38 PM
We have had a constant problem with these pests. so well give it a try.

Karen Pennebaker
3/8/2010 3:48:52 PM
The bug squasher is a neat idea, but I've never had a problem here with squash bugs. Actually, we have very few problems with any sort of insect damage here...a few Japanese beetles show up every year to eat bean leaves. Other than those, my garden is pretty much "bugless"...I use no chemicals, fertilize my raised beds with litter from the goats, and everything in the garden seems to be content with that. (Our pest problem is goats that figure out how to open gates and defeat fences!)

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