Organic Squash Vine Borer Control

Squash vine borer damage can be devastating to pumpkins and squash. Protect your patch by learning how to recognize damage before it’s too late, and by handpicking and using row covers.

  • Many of our readers have reported that the most effective methods of organic squash vine borer control are crop rotation and growing resistant varieties, which includes butternut squash and a few varieties of pumpkin.
    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 Vine Borers (Melittia satyriniformis)

Squash vine borers are one of the most common pests encountered when growing pumpkins or squash. Squash vine borer larvae feed inside the thick stems of summer squash, winter squash and large pumpkins. Affected plants slowly wilt and die during the second half of summer. A native American insect, squash borers are rarely seen west of the Rocky Mountains, but are extremely common in the east. Organic controls for squash vine borers include growing resistant varieties, crop rotation, using row covers, passive traps, and surgical removal. 

What Are Squash Vine Borers?

The larvae of a large, orange and black hawk moth, squash vine borers appear in early summer, after pumpkin and squash begin growing vigorously. The adult moths are often seen visiting the squash patch during the day, and especially at sunset. Eggs laid by the moths on the basal stems of squash hatch and the larvae bore into the stem, feeding exclusively on the inside. Squash borer adults are active for about 30 days in summer, or sometimes longer.

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