Jane Stroud, officer of Loving Garland Green Board of Directors multitasking in the garden: watering and vacuuming bugs.
At the Crossroads of Sustainable and Practical with Loving Garland Green
FROM spring of 2015:
This morning I got an interesting email from Jane Stroud, an officer on the Board of Directors for Loving Garland Green:
I'm invaded with cucumber beetles. I saw on Internet you could vacuum with cordless vac and dump them in soapy water. I tried it this afternoon and you can suck them out of the air in flight. Done! Gonna try this tomorrow morning when I water with Marie. Should work! Bringing a bucket of soapy water to test it in.
This morning I went down to the garden to see Jane in action with her cordless vacuum and container of soapy water. Yes, she was successfully vacuuming up squash bugs. The process definitely works.
But is vacuuming squash bugs sustainable? Strictly speaking, the answer is likely "no."
Environmental sustainability refers to the rates of renewable resource harvest, pollution creation, and non-renewable resource depletion that can be continued indefinitely. If they cannot be continued indefinitely then they are not sustainable. Unless the vacuum is solar-powered, its use to suck up the bugs is not sustainable.
MORE ON THE BATTLE AGAINST THE SQUASH BUG
I’ve done considerable research and I can find no information on any beneficial aspect of the squash bug. If you know of any, please educate me. Generally speaking all creatures have a reason for being--even humans.
Injury is limited to squash, pumpkin, melon, and other plants in the cucurbit family. Adults and nymphs cause damage by sucking plant juices. Leaves lose nutrients and water and become speckled, later turning yellow to brown. Small plants can be killed completely, while larger cucurbits begin to lose runners. The wilting resembles bacterial wilt, which is a disease spread by another pest of squash, the cucumber beetle. The wilting caused by squash bugs is not a true disease. Squash bugs may feed on developing fruits, causing scarring and death of young fruit.
In spring, search for squash bugs hidden under debris, near buildings and in perennial plants in the garden. Inspect young plants daily for signs of egg masses, mating adults, or wilting. Place wooden boards throughout the garden and check under them every morning. Then destroy any squash bugs found.
The best method for control is prevention through sanitation. Remove old cucurbit plants after harvest. Keep the garden free from rubbish and debris that can provide overwintering sites for squash bugs.
At the end of the gardening season, compost all vegetation or thoroughly till it under. Handpick or vacuum any bugs found under wooden boards. During the growing season, pick off and destroy egg masses as soon as you see them. Use protective covers such as plant cages or row covers in gardens where squash bugs have been a problem in the past and remove covers at bloom to allow for pollination.
Using a trellis for vining types of squash and melons can make them less vulnerable to squash bug infestation. [We are definitely going to 1) plant squash in new places next year and 2) trellis them [at the least they will be easier to vacuum than vines on the ground].
Some squash varieties, including Butternut, Royal Acorn, and Sweet Cheese, are more resistant to squash bugs. [We may decide to go this route as well as we did get a few butternut squash this year.]
The parasitic tachinid fly Trichopodna pennipes, which lays its eggs on squash bugs, may be found in some gardens. Look for the eggs of this parasite on undersides of squash bugs. [I'm very leery of introducing non-native insects into our local environment. In fact, I don't do it. Often this ends up drastically upsetting the balance of nature in the environment and you end up trading one problem for another. We've seen this in many places in the USA with the introduction of various non-native species of dragonflies as mosquito controllers.]
Chemical Control has been found to be ineffective in the management and control of the squash bug.
[Information and photo on squash bug courtesy University of California Agriculture Department.]