May 19 2017


Squash Bug (Anasa tristis) – Photo Credit: University of Delaware Cooperative Extension Photo Credit for Squash Vine Borer: Lee Jenkins, University of Missouri Extension. 

According to the Old Farmers’ Almanac:  The Squash bug’s damage is limited to the cucurbit   family (squashes, cucumbers, melons).    Squash bugs are often mistaken for stinkbugs, as they are similar in appearance and both have a foul odor when squashed.  Squash Bugs, however, are endemic to the Americas while stinkbugs are not.  [I know when we were kids there were bugs we called “stinkbugs” and did they stink.  Most likely these were squash bugs.  It’s too bad we weren’t educated from first grade on to refer to plants and animals by their scientific names—then there would not be all this confusion resulting from common names we give to various species.  Often a species can have several different common names and the same common name is used sometimes to refer to different species.]


Squash Vine Borers– Larvae of Clear Wing Moths

Squash Vine Borers (Melittia cucurbitae) are the larvae of Clear Wing Moths. The Sesiidae or clearwing moths are a family of the Lepidoptera that look like wasps and are active in the daytime.

 The larvae overwinter as pupae in cocoons in the soil.  Then they hatch in early to midsummer and lay their eggs at the base of the stems of squash, melons, and pumpkins.  Clear Wing moths are often mistaken for wasps.  Unlike other moths, Clear Wing moths are active during the daytime.

Now is the time to install your defenses against SQUASH VINE BORERS

Within a few weeks adult clearwing moths will emerge and lay eggs singly or in small groups at the base of stems. The eggs will hatch within 1 to 2 weeks after being laid. The larvae will then bore into stems to feed for about 2 to 4 weeks—totally destroying the squash plant.



Following is some great advice from the Old Farmer’s Almanac regarding squash bugs:

  • In the fall, burn or hot-compost old squash vines to rid your garden of any possible shelters for breeding and over-wintering.
  • Avoid deep, cool mulches like straw or hay that provide an environment that these bugs seem to love.
  • Rotate your crops.
  • Consider keeping vines covered until blossoming begins. Remove the cover for pollination needs. There is only one generation of squash bugs per year, and you can avoid them by covering your plants for the first month of spring. You can also delay planting your squash until the early months of summer.
  • Companion planting can be useful in repelling squash bugs. Try planting nasturtium and tansy around your plants that are commonly affected by squash bugs.
  • Select varieties of squash that are resistant to the squash bug if you have a big problem. ‘Butternut,’ ‘Royal Acorn,’ and ‘Sweet Cheese’ varieties are all more resistant to squash bugs 


Photo Credit:  photographed in the laboratory of Fondazione Edmund Mach, Italy – From Wiki CommonsHalyomorpha halys a.k.a. brown mormorated stinkbug (BMSB)

You probably won’t see this critter around your squash, but look for him in your orchard.

Halyomorpha halys, also known as the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB), or simply the stink bug, is an insect in the family Pentomidae that is native to China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan.  It was accidentally introduced into the United States, with the first specimen being collected in September 1998.  It is now a season-long pest in orchards.


TANSY - Tanacetum vulgare

a possible natural botanical solution for controlling squash bugs


WIKI COMMONS:  Ivar Leidus- Own work

I’ve never to my knowledge met a Tansy in person, but I’m going in search of some of these plants today. Their photographs bear a strong resemblance to yarrow.

They have an interesting history.  This flowering plant, supposed to repel squash bugs, is a member of the aster family.  It is native to Eurasia and in 16th century Britain it was considered to be “necessary for a garden.”  It was first recorded as being cultivated by the ancient Greeks for medicinal purposes.  In the 15th century, Christians began serving tansy with meals during Lent to commemorate the bitter herbs eaten by the Israelites. Tansy was used as a face wash and was reported to lighten and purify the skin.  Most of its medicinal uses have been discredited,however, Tansy is still a component of some medicines and is listed by the United States Pharmacopeia  as a treatment for fevers, feverish colds, and jaundice. Tansy has also been cultivated and used for its insect repellent capability.   

It was packed into coffins, wrapped in funeral winding sheets, and tansy wreaths  were sometimes placed on the dead.  During the American colonial period, meat was frequently rubbed with or packed in tansy leaves to repel insects and delay spoilage. In England tansy is placed on window sills to repel flies; sprigs are placed in bed linen to drive away pests, and it has been used as an ant repellent. 

The Cherokee used an infusion of the plant for backache, use the plant as a tonic , and wore it around the waist and in shoes to prevent miscarriages. The Cheyenne used an infusion of the pulverized leaves and blossoms for dizziness and weakness.  Tansy is considered to be a great companion plant for squash and cucumbers as it repels the squash bug.  However it is no longer recommended for ingestion as tansy can damage the liver. Application to the skin can cause skin irritation as well.


How do I deal with the squash bug on my plants?

I monitor my squash and cucumber plants daily.  When I see a squash bug, I squash it. (Isn’t that simple and appropriate?)  Due to the scale of our farming operations, the urban farmer has many options that are not readily available to the commercial farmer.  There is absolutely no need for urban farmers to use chemical warfare on pests.   Now that I have learned about the Tansy, I will plant some near by squash and cucumber plants.

For the squash borer, I’m generously powdering the stems, near the ground with diatomaceous earth (DE).  After a rain or watering, I reapply.

Before using a chemical pesticide, please consider eco-system connections.

We are all connected in the chain of life on this planet.  Consider why we even have squash bugs in the first place.  Their purpose is to provide food for other creatures--birds in particular.  Squash bugs take plant nutrients into their bodies and then are eaten by other animals.  Thus birds and other insect-eaters can be harmed indirectly by consuming poisoned insects.

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