Did you hear that long exhale? It’s been one of those weeks in the garden.
A squirrel shredded my garden swing cover.
My decoy pumpkin died…
…and the dreaded squash bugs descended on my beloved pumpkins.
A bit of history
I spotted a single squash bug on the side of the house in early spring. Thanks to a dry, warm winter, they happily overwintered. Further reading tells me they’re a hardy bunch and can survive under a blanket of snow. In any event, they’re back.
The idea was to plant a decoy pumpkin in the back garden, hoping to draw them away from the other plants. I planted three varieties of pumpkins in EarthBoxes™ on my deck, as far away as possible from the ‘scene of the crime.’
Unfortunately, the irrigation in the decoy box stopped working. Pumpkins are thirsty plants, and by the time I realized, it was too late. Whether or not it would have worked is anyone’s guess, but it’s now a moot point.
A colony of squash bugs are now residing om my beloved deck-top vines.
I’ve learned a thing or two from a handful of sites, but nothing that gave me any hope. Apparently squash bugs need the squash to reproduce. They’ll go in search of other food, but it’s not until they find a squash plant that they set up house. Some of the professional growers plant ‘sacrificial’ crops like pumpkins (what!!!) to defer the damage away from pricier crops in the same family. Imagine choosing cantaloupe over pumpkins. Why I never!!!
After last year’s debacle, I assumed the bugs liked the fruit alone and that I would be safe until then. Nope! They lay eggs on the underside of the leaves.
According to John Capinera of The University of Florida:
The squash bug causes severe damage to cucurbits because it secretes highly toxic saliva into the plant. The foliage is the primary site of feeding but the fruit is also fed upon. The foliage wilts, becomes blackened, and dies following feeding; this malady is sometimes called “anasa wilt.” Often an entire plant or section of plant perishes while nearby plants remain healthy. The amount of damage occurring on a plant is directly proportional to the density of squash bugs.
The plants look healthy. I’ve been knocking the large bugs off the leaves, but I’ve yet to go in search of the dreaded eggs. The bees are a buzz every day, moving from flower to gorgeous flower. A couple of pieces of fruit have reached the size of a baseball.
Regardless of the outcome of this year’s crop, it might be time to take a year off between plantings. I know a lot of gardeners rotate crops for this reason. I took a break from growing tomatoes after a nasty tobacco (tomato horn worm) infestation. They’ve been fine ever since.
I’ll keep you posted.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac: Squash Bugs
University of Florida: Entomology and Nematology