Take steps to fight off squash vine borer

Special to The Sun NewsJune 18, 2014 

To me, there is nothing like fresh summer squash. During summertime I have to harvest my squash plants almost every day.

Sometimes I feel like Bubba Gump when it comes to how to cook all the squash I have. Fried squash, grilled squash, stewed squash, squash casserole ... OK, I think I will stop now.

Lately I have noticed that I am not the only one who enjoys eating and growing summer squash from the calls we have been receiving here in the office. Many home gardeners are noticing their squash plants literally collapsing overnight. The culprit is the squash vine borer.

The squash vine borer overwinters in a cocoon in the soil, usually where squash plants were grown during the previous season. The adult moths emerge from the soil, usually in late spring or early summer, and lay their eggs on the stems of susceptible plants during the day.

All members of the cucurbit family are susceptible to the squash vine borer. This includes pumpkins, melons and cucumbers. After about a week, the larvae hatch and bore their way into the stem near the soil line. They tunnel through the stem causing structural damage and cutting off water flow. Eventually, the plant wilts and dies.

Because we usually do not notice the vine borer until after the damage is done, this pest can be difficult to control. Once the borer is inside the vine, there is not much that can be done.

The best method of control is prevention. Rotating where your cucurbits are grown in the garden can help lessen the insect population.

Tilling the soil in late winter exposes the overwintering cocoons to harsh winter weather and predators. Because the squash vine borer does not emerge until late spring, planting your squash as early as possible will give them the best chance to survive an attack.

Once you have planted your squash, yellow bowls of soapy water or yellow sticky traps can help reduce and monitor the moth populations. The yellow color mimics the yellow flowers on the squash vine.

Check your plants regularly for frass, sawdust-like insect waste, at the base of the plant. If observed, cut a slit into the vine and remove the borer. Once the borer is removed, mound dirt back over the vine above the affected area. With any luck, the plant will sprout new roots and continue growing.

Insecticides may be used to help control newly-hatched borers. With monitoring and taking some preventative measures, you will be able to enjoy your squash all season long.

For more information on any program area, contact Houston County Extension at 478-987-2028 or drop by our office in the old courthouse in Perry, 801 Main St. Office hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Visit our website at www.caes.uga.edu/extension/houston/ for more news about your local Extension office.

Check out my blog at blog.extension.uga.edu/houston/

Houston County 4-H is offering many day camps and field trips this summer. Contact the extension office for more details.

Dates to remember

June 15-19: 4-H State Horse School

June 16: Grower’s Meeting, Perry

July 10: Sunbelt Expo Field Day, Moultrie

July 11: Master Goat Farmer registration deadline, Fulton County

July 14-18: 4-H Wilderness Challenge Camp

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