Organic Squash Bug Control

Squash bugs love pumpkins and squash, and they will sabotage the leaves, stems and fruits of these autumn favorites. For a pest-free squash patch, follow these expert tips for organic squash bug control, including handpicking and installing row covers.

  • Native to Central America, squash bugs are now found wherever squash is grown.
    Illustration By Keith Ward

This article is part of our Organic Pest Control Series, which includes articles on attracting beneficial insects, controlling specific garden pests, and using organic pesticides.

Squash Bugs (Anasa tristis)

One of the most common pests encountered when growing pumpkins or squash, squash bug (Anasa tristis) adults and larvae feed on the leaves, stems and fruits of squash and pumpkins; late in the season fruits may be swarmed by immature nymphs. Badly hit plants produce poorly because so many leaves are consumed and fruits are damaged. Organic controls for squash bugs include crop rotation, using row covers and dedicated handpicking. Trap cropping also can be used to manage squash bugs in the vegetable garden. 

What Are Squash Bugs?

Native to Central America, squash bugs are now found wherever squashes are grown. Emerging in mid to late spring, just as pumpkin and squash begin growing vigorously, squash bug adults are gray, oval-shaped stink bugs capable of flying on warm days. Adults are often seen lurking in squash foliage, looking for mates. Much more visible are the dark brown egg clusters attached to either side of leaves, often between leaf veins. Small, gray nymphs with long black legs appear a few weeks later, along with many additional egg clusters.

What Squash Bug Damage Looks Like

Squash bug larvae and adults feed by inserting their needle-like mouth parts into squash or pumpkin leaves, stems or fruit to suck plant juices. As they feed, they release a toxin that causes injured tissues to turn black or brown and die. When plants develop fruits, adults and nymphs often damage them by making numerous pinprick holes. In some areas, squash bugs vector a viral disease called Cucurbit Yellow Vine disease, which causes plants to turn yellow and stop growing. 

7/10/2014 4:13:11 PM

I just discovered the first adult squash bugs and many egg clusters on my big, beautiful zucchini plant today. After reading your suggestion to use duct tape sticky-side out on your finger to remove eggs from the plant, I had to try it. AMAZING!!! I have had way too much fun getting rid of those pesky critters and their eggs with this method! I have not seen any nymphs yet, so I am hoping I got to it early enough to slow down the devastation. Last year was my first experience with these pests...they destroyed nearly my whole patch! I am ready to wage war on them this year and I am so grateful for your helpful idea. One more ingenious use for duct tape!!! Gotta love it! Thanks from a grateful gardener in Washington! Grama Jennie



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