Vegetable Gardening: Help My Squash is being Attacked!

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I have been growing squash (zucchini variety) for 7 years in my home vegetable gardening.  They are easy to grow and the few plants I do have produce a harvest that supplies my entire family as well as being able to give some away to neighbors, friends and family.

For the first 6 years of my garden I never had any problems with my squash. That is, up until last year.  That is when a species of bug showed up out of nowhere and decided to set up shop on my squash and live in the area which is probably the equivalent of humans living in the middle of a supermarket.

My wife was the first to notice the insect on my squash and came into the house to tell me about it.  I didn’t think much of it since I never had any issues in previous years.  I went out the next day to take a look and low and behold these ugly gray and brown looking bugs were everywhere.  Well everywhere on the squash.  They had no interest in any of the other vegetation in my garden, only the zucchini.

After doing some research I found that the bug in question, the ones on my squash plants, originate from Asia specifically China, although I could not find the exact region.  They have been given the name “stink bug” in our area but are also referred to as squash bugs and even called shield bugs.  They are part of the hemiptera order.

Although the ones I saw in my garden were brown and gray, they can also be green in some parts of the world.  They are recognized by their color but more so by the triangular shape “shield” looking backs that they have. 

Most stink bugs are plant eaters and are harmless to humans.  They reproduce at a very fast rate and are active from the late spring to early fall.  Early studies indicate they do not fair well in cooler climates but are quick adapters to the environment and when the temperatures drop will look for ways to get inside warmer areas such as a barn or a person’s home.

The bad news is they are resistant to many pesticides which make them hard to control.  The good news is you can get rid of them without pesticides but you will have to work at it.  Because stink bugs are harmless to humans the best way found to get them out of your garden is to remove them by hand. 

Put on a good pair of garden gloves and with an empty coffee can in tow, remove the bugs and more importantly all of the egg sacks by hand and put them in the coffee can.  When you have removed all of them put the lid on making sure no air can get in.  This will suffocate them and they will die.  Sure it’s not the most humane way of doing it, but neither is squashing them.

A very important note and that is there is a reason these bugs are called stink bugs.  That is they emit an odor when they feel they are in danger or threatened.  Although the odor they emit is small, it can get onto your skin and be there a while, which is when you are handling them, make sure you where good gloves and a long sleeve shirt.

There are home remedies I have read about, none of I which I personally used, so I can not comment on as to whether or not they work.  But the best, most organic way, of getting rid of these pesky creatures is to remove them by hand.  As long as you stay on top of the situation you will not have a problem, but it does take work.

About the Author
Mike is the author of the book Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person: A guide to vegetable gardening for the rest of us as well as the president and CEO of Mike the Gardener Enterprises, LLC. He can be reached at the wesbite: AveragePersonGardening.com. You can also follow him on Twitter.

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