6 Ways to Control Squash Bugs in Your Garden

6 Ways to Control Squash Bugs

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Squash bugs are one of the hardest pests to get rid of once they find your garden. It can be devastating to walk out to your garden and find your beautiful squash plants wilted on the ground. Crop rotation is helpful, but only if you have a lot of room to rotate about. Chickens and guineas, at least mine, don’t really care for squash bugs either. But fortunately all isn’t lost. If you combine the following 6 tips, you can effectively control squash bugs and keep them from taking over your garden this summer!



1. Hand pick off the bugs and eggs

This is, and always will be, the best method of defense when it comes to squash bugs. The most reliable way to get kill them is to do it yourself. I keep a jug of soapy water in the garden specifically for this purpose. Bug picking is best done in the morning or evening- simply go through your plants and pick off any adult bugs to find and drop them into the soapy water. Adult squash bugs are usually found on the underside of the leaves, especially the lower leaves that are touching the ground. They will also be found around the base of the plant. You will find rows of gold-colored eggs on the undersides of the leaves. You will also want to scratch off and destroy these eggs. Try to do this with the least amount of damage to the leaves. You can simply squish them, brush them off into your soapy water or use very sticky tape to pick them off. This is a daily job and if you get lazy about picking- chances are your squash plants will fall!

2. Companion plant

You can also help control squash bugs by planting repellant plants with your squashes. Two of the most commonly used companions for squash is nasturtiums and white icicle radishes. Plant them throughout your squash beds for the best results. Other plants such as oregano, marigold, calendula and dill can also provide some protection.

Related: 16 Ways to Use Companion Planting to Control Plants Naturally


beneficial insects to control squash bugs


3.  Attract beneficial insects

The problem with most insecticides- even those labeled “organic”- is that they don’t differentiate between the good and the bad. Certain insects are very beneficial to have on your side when you are fighting pests. One such insect is the Tachinid Fly, or Trichopoda pennipes. This little fly is very effective in helping to control squash bug populations. The female fly lays her eggs on the adult squash bugs and they will hatch and burrow into the host to feed, killing it. If you companion planted dill or calendula with your squash plants their pollen and nectar rich flowers will help to attract the Tachinid Fly.

4. Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous Earth is a powder made from ground up diatoms. It works my making microscopic cuts in the exoskeleton of insects- drying them out.  There are 2 types- food grade and industrial grade. You want the food grade for all of your gardening and pest needs. Simply spread a layer of diatomaceous earth at the base of the plant. It doesn’t work once it gets wet, so you will have to reapply as necessary. DE does not work as well on adult bugs due to their hard shell, but the nymphs are usually the most destructive and they don’t have such a hard shell. Take care not to get DE on the blossoms, because it will not differentiate between a squash bug and a bee, lady bug or Tachinid fly. So be careful when using it.

5. Watch your mulch

Squash bugs love to hide under the mulch around your plants and it provides the insects with a protective cover. If you must mulch, do not put it right up against the base of the plant, or try something like plastic sheet mulching instead.

control squash bugs


6. Over-plant your squash

The more plants you have the more there is to go around! The first year I planted yellow scalloped squash, I planted 3 along with my usual zucchini. What I discovered is that the squash bugs preferred the yellow scalloped squash over the green zucchini. From that  year on, I have planted a few sacrificial scalloped squash. I still use the above mentioned control measures, but the sacrificial squash plants are usually the first to be swarmed and fall. This also works if you just plant more plants than you really need- that way it isn’t quite so devastating if the squash bugs win the battle. You can also try planting varieties, such as butternut, that are not favorites of the squash bugs.

Another thing to keep in mind when trying to control squash bugs is to know your climate and insect life cycles. I know a lot of gardeners who can successfully plant squash later in the season and skip the squash bugs all together. In my gardens, I have always found that early is better. That way I get a good month or 2 of squash harvests before the bugs get really bad. Experiment with planting times and see if a spring, early summer or late summer planting works better for you.

Good luck and Happy Gardening!

© 2014 – 2016, Sarah R Toney. All rights reserved.

31 comments on “6 Ways to Control Squash Bugs in Your Garden

  1. Hi Sara! What about squash borers? They bore into the plant underground. Those are what usually kill my beautiful squash plants. Have you had any problems with them? Thanks for sharing this valuable information! Blessings from Bama!

    • I have never had trouble with borers. I think that removing the bugs from the vines, planting more often- like every couple weeks- and a higher number of squash will help. Also planting as early as possible in the season to get squash before the bugs come out.

    • Colleen Lees says:

      Hi, Felecia!
      We have success injecting BT into the squash/pumpkin vines. I save a syringe or two from the vet every year for this purpose. Good luck!

  2. […] 7. Grow nasturtiums with your squash to help keep that dreaded squash bug away. […]

  3. Rachelle says:

    Actually this is a nice little list. We have done these things except the DE two years running and many more tricks found on the web. Two years running we have fought the bugs to no availe. This past growing season they literally wiped out 15 hills of Jack-o-lanterines all the Banana squash, we harvested 8 small spaghetti squash, and three tiny acorn squash. We lost all of our butternut and buttercup squash. We spent hundreds of dollars and hundreds of man hours using every thing natural organic and then into chemical. The extension service identified four different types of squash bugs. The summer squash was hybryd and treated and it lasted through out the year. We will NEVER plant heirloom squash again-learned that lesson well. I dont have the time to go out and pick bugs off over a hunder plants a year every day.

    • ReeCee says:

      We used Dawn dishwashing liquid mixed with water and sprayed it on our plants once a week. We’d tried everything else on the farm, but that was the one thing which finally solved our issue. I never saw picking off bugs daily as a viable solution either, unless you have a very small garden.

  4. Useful info but fyi the “Newsletter” box on the left side makes your blog nearly impossible to read normally.

    KK @ Preppy Pink Crocodile

    • Thank you for your comment. Can I ask what device you are using? I have tested on an iPad, smart phone and desktop computer with no trouble. The newsletter form on the left side will pop out if you scroll over it, but moving or clicking outside of it’s borders will close it.

      • cptacek says:

        I am on Firefox on an Windows machine, and if I make the browser window smaller (like half of my screen instead of the full thing) the Newsletter portion hides some of the text as you scroll.

  5. janetpesaturo says:

    Nice list. One additional way to evade squash bugs completely is to grow them every other year. When you do that, the overwintering bugs die out in summer, because they have no host plant in your garden the following summer. I posted in detail on this in the past: http://ouroneacrefarm.com/growing-squash-and-pumpkins/

    One problem with over-planting is that you’re forever increasing the squash bug population by providing an abundance of host plant. You would have to plant more squash every year to keep ahead of the bugs. On the other hand, alternating years knocks the local squash bug population to virtually nil, and it takes awhile for bugs to find your plants and move in from other areas.

  6. Squash bugs are the most destructive pests in my garden. I try to pick them off & I’m diligent about my search but many years they take much of my crop. The worst year was when I mulched the tender young plants early in the season to protect against the drying winds we often get here in NE Texas. That mulch provided quite the haven for the squash bugs and my entire crop of varying squash varieties was wiped out. Lesson learned – I’ll never mulch around my squash plants again. Last year I was very diligent and although the squash bugs did win the war it was late in the season after I had eaten fresh & then preserved quite a bit of it. Thanks for sharing this post. (visiting from Green Thumb Thursday hop)

    ~Taylor-Made Ranch~
    Wolfe City, Texas

  7. Anna says:

    The nice thing about having cooler summers is less bugs, and we do not miss them. Thank you for linking up at Green Thumb Thursday 😉

  8. Kathi says:

    I had squash bugs last year and didn’t grow any squash, and my nearest neighbor is 1/4 mile away and doesn’t garden. I’m not sure what they were after or if they were just confused. Thank you for sharing this at the HomeAcre Hop; I hope you’ll join us again this Thursday.
    Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead

  9. Becky says:

    Great tips for this summer’s crops! Thanks for sharing on Tuesday Greens!

  10. […] 6 Ways To Control Squash Bugs In Your Garden […]

  11. Kerstin says:

    I have also read about Tansy as a companion plant…

  12. marshall hinsley says:

    You forgot skunks:

  13. […] your plants daily. Pick them off and drop them in the soapy water. This works particularly well for controlling squash bugs  and the Colorado potato beetle (and their […]

  14. […] 7. Grow nasturtiums with your squash to help keep that dreaded squash bug away. […]

  15. Robert Reynolds says:

    I have finally found a sure cure for the squash bug. I spent several years of planting “decoy” squash plants and, when infested, ripping them out and destroying all bugs. I would plant new squash plants a few days before that scorched-earth process. I have found something much better.
    My new process is to leave about 100 feet of garden hose, full of water, in the full sun for a few hours. The water is too hot to touch, but when shot in volume at the base of the squash plant (they like to hide down there during the heat of mid-day) the little stinkers will come out in a swarm. Hose them all with the hot water, which will kill most. Keep hosing until you have drown all that you can see, being sure to knock them off of the plant.
    I assumed that I would lose my test plant entirely (a zucchini) but it looks even better two days after the hot water attack. I did find ONE bug the day after the hot water; he came up to escape normal watering and I took him with a pair of tweezers.
    Try this with just one plant; it looks to me like a solution for, at least, Zucchini squash plants. ENJOY RCR

    • Thanks for the tip!

    • Robert Reynolds says:

      OH, and it’s OK if the water eventually turns cold. The hot will have done its job, the bugs are dead or drowning and the cold may have helped the plant stand the initial hot shot of agua.

  16. […] Six Ways to Control Squash Bugs in your Garden by Sarah Toney […]

  17. Sharon Neasbitt says:

    Hi Sarah,
    I found the sure all organic treatment for squash bugs. I water the plants and watch for them to swarm to the top then I suck them up in my cheap wet/dry shop vac and drown them (no soap needed as they are enclosed in the vac). The easiest way to accomplish this is to have the plants that vine stay localized by creating an upward trellis for them to climb.

    • Jackie says:

      Sarah, that is a great tip

    • Amy says:

      We use the wet/dry vac. to suck them off the plant and then suck up a gallon of soapy water and let them die. It works great and gets all those little tiny bugs that are so easy to miss and all the eggs.
      I love the idea of planting nasturtiums. Would you just plant in the same hill or around where the vines are?
      Thank you for all the great tips!

  18. […] Problems with pests?? Check out these tips to control squash bugs. […]

  19. Julie chaidez says:

    My garden is barely starting to show signs of producing fruit and like last year I got those nasty bugs again last year I used pesticide no results and again this year they are back my husband has picked them off one by one after reading your emails looks like I will be out there with my husband too.

  20. DMMZ says:

    If I notice squash bugs early enough, I plan to spray the whole plant, top and bottoms of the leaves, with soapy water. It works on aphids and young insects with a thin exoskeleton. Young tender squash bugs should be susceptible too I would think. If the problem comes up and this method works, I’ll post the results.

    • sll says:

      Will love to hear if that worked. These bugs have killed my zuchini, then got yellow squash and yesterday have started on our cucumbers. There are hundreds of them…..so many to catch and squash.

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