USU Extension Corner: Control squash bugs to prevent plant, branch damage
Even though the spring weather in the Castle Country region has been fairly cool in 2009, many residents have already found squash bugs on cucumbers, butternut squash and acorn squash plants.
This may be another big year for squash bugs.
Squash bugs are large, about five-eighths of an inch long insects that belong to the class of true bugs. They are grayish brown in color.
Right now, squash bugs are mating and laying eggs on the underside of leaves and stems.
The bugs have piercing-sucking mouthparts and feed by sucking the juices from the plant leaves and stems.
Damage to the vascular tissue may even cause entire plants or branches to wilt quickly and die.
The insects prefer to lay their eggs on pumpkin and squash plants, but may also cause problems on cucumbers, melons and gourds.
A couple of squash bugs are generally not a problem for the fast-growing garden plants. But when the eggs hatch, a large number of the nymphs can be seen feeding on the leaves and stems of the plants.
The nymphs are a grayish color and have soft bodies that are similar to the adults, but they are smaller and less developed.
It is best to do as much control as possible before the eggs hatch.
Early in the season, the best control method is to catch and kill any adults that people can see.
The adult squash bugs can usually be found low on the plant on the underside of leaves and stems.
The adult insects like to hide at night so a small board or piece of cardboard placed near the plant can act as a trap for many of them. Local residents should check under the board in the mornings.
It is also important to remove any eggs that have been laid.
Eggs can be found on the underside of leaves and stems, usually - but not always - in the V shape by the veins.
The eggs can easily be scraped off with a fingernail or even a pocket knife and squished.
Even if a portion of the leaf is torn off and thrown away, a little damage to the leaf will be much less of a problem than having several dozen squash bug nymphs sucking the life out of the plant.
Once the eggs start hatching then chemical control is usually warranted.
Products containing carbaryl such as Sevin are typically labeled for squash bugs.
The powder form works well, but it is the product may be difficult to apply to the underside of the leaves.
Local residents should be sure to follow the label directions and observe the pre-harvest intervals before eating the produce.
There is a lot of excellent information about squash bugs online.
For example, Carbon County residents with Internet access may visit http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/factsheet/ENT -12-08.pdf. for additional information.