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How to Prevent Squash Bugs in the Garden Naturally

Natural Methods for Avoiding Squash Bugs — Prevention is the Best Defense

If you’re growing any kind of squash or cucurbit, you’ll want to know how to prevent squash bugs before they move in and attack your precious garden plants. Prevention is possible, but for the best results you’ll want to employ as many preventive measures as possible.

If your garden is already under attack by squash bugs, you may want to jump over to our article on how to get rid of squash bugs first. Once you’ve gotten the defense arsenal employed, then you can come back here and fill in the extra pieces toward helping you avoid more issues.

Here are some preliminary lines of defense that are simple and beneficial.

1. Plant Squash Bug Resistant Squash Varieties

  • Acorn, Royal acorn
  • Butternut
  • Cushaw
  • Royal Acorn
  • Pink Banada
  • Spaghetti
  • Sweet Cheese
  • Zucchini

These varieties of squash are less likely to fall prey to squash bugs, especially if you’re growing the entrapment varieties they like most.

2. Companion Planting to Deter Squash Bugs

Some plants are proven to have properties that tend to repel or deter some pests. However, in some cases it is simply the biodiverse plantings that help.[1]

The biodiversity of permaculture style of gardening is about creating a symbiotic ecosystem of plant and insect interaction that create a more balanced and harmonious environment. Toward that, one of the best defenses against squash bugs is companion plants that deter squash bugs in and around your squash plants.

A first line of prevention against squash bugs is to plant companion plants that squash bugs don’t like.

Squash Companion Plants to Deter Squash Bugs

  • Bee balm and other mints – place pots amidst the rows if concerned about mint spreading
  • Calendula – is also edible and wonderfully medicinal in oils and balms
  • Camellia – Shikimic acid, caffeine & tannins repels aphids, termites and squash bugs
  • Catnip – can reduce squash bugs
  • Chives
  • Dill
  • Garlic – these “stinky” herbs repel garden pests
  • Marigold – deters pests and are good companion plants for all plants
  • Nasturtiums – pests seem to avoid spicy plants like nasturtiums
  • Radishes – specifically white icicle radish[2]
  • Tansy – shown to reduce squash bugs and gets rid of ants naturally
  • Tobacco – these are actually a nice ornamental companion plant that tend to repel bad bugs. You can also create a natural pest poison for the garden using tobacco leaves. Spray plants soil with a mixture of water, minced garlic, tobacco leaves and soap to stick. as a natural insect repellent.

*Shikimic acid is the Japanese star anise – Illicium anisatum


3. Planting Trap Plants as Decoys

In conjunction with plants that deter squash bugs, some advise planting entrapment plants that attract squash bugs to a different area of the yard, near but not in your garden. These “decoy” plants will likely be a crop that you can expect to lose.

This is thought to create a double and compatible line of defense against squash bugs.

  1. Plant deterrent plants in and around your crops.
  2. Plant a lure squash crop that’s a squash bug free-for-all away from your garden.

Perimeter Trap Crop Theory

The theory is that by giving the squash bugs a free buffet of favorite foods on the perimeter of your garden, it will keep them away from your other plants. They’ll move away from your good crop surrounded by deterrent plants and instead occupy the lure crop.

You may be thinking by now, that you do not want to purposefully attract squash bugs! We get it. Opinions are mixed and more research is needed over time to know for sure.

However, the reality is, squash bugs are the number one problem plaguing squash crops, so even if you’ve never growth squash before, the probability of them finding your very first squash plant is high.

It may be better to do all that you can to protect one area and leave another area of plants “available” to them. You can still deploy methods for trying to get rid of squash bugs on the attacked plants. It may diminish the squash bug population, while giving your main plants the best chance at survival.

Hopefully, they’ll move away from your good crop surrounded by deterrent plants and instead occupy their favorite squash in the lure crop.

If you’ve tried this trap crop method we’d love to hear your observation on how well it worked or not.

Squash Bug Entrapment Plants – AKA – Trap Crops

  • Pumpkins
  • Blue Hubbard
  • Yellow squash

Consider growing these “entrapment plants” for squash bugs in a perimeter area of your main garden. When coupled with deterrent plants, this has been found to help reduce squash infestation of main crops.

SOURCE: Univ. of Mass., Amherst

Companion planting includes deterrent plants that repel squash bugs and and entrapment plants on the perimeter that lure squash bugs to another area.

How to Prevent Squash Bugs

There aren’t any known effective natural predators to squash bugs to date. While the tachinid fly, Trichopoda pennipes, is often cited as a biological prevention, The University of Massachusetts Ag Extension service indicates otherwise.

“Unfortunately, these [tachinid] fly eggs do not hatch and kill the squash bug in time to prevent reproduction and feeding by squash bugs.”
~Univ. of Mass., Amherst

Summary on Squash Bug Prevention Methods

  • Remove crops immediately after harvest; clean and till beds.
  • Plant crop rotation – so no cucurbits in the same beds as the previous season.
  • Keep garden areas cleared and free of debris.
  • Avoid:
    • mulch, especially wood chips and staw
    • no-till gardening
  • Use transplants rather than sowing from seeds.
  • Use frost covers in spring until flowers appear, to keep squash bugs at bay; then remove covers for pollination.
  • Placing boards or cardboard on beds around plants; squash bugs will overnight in such shelter, so check under these each morning and quickly kill any squash bugs.
  • Trellis squash plants to minimize leaf cover at ground level for squash bugs to hide under.
  • Plant deterrent companion plants throughout your garden.
  • Plant trap crops and check them often.
  • Search underside of leaves daily, especially if you see yellow spots, wilting or ragged holes on leaves
    • check underside and remove any eggs and squash bugs.
  • Keep chickens and guinea hens if you can. If you have the space and time to care for them, they will repay you in eggs and garden pests, flea and tick control.
  • Keeping plants well fed and fertilized will help them fight the good fight and fail if under attack.
  • Organic sprays with neem oil and diatomaceous earth – see more in how to get rid of squash bugs.

We love the no-till and deep mulch gardening methods and use wood chip mulch liberally. We’re in the woods with a ready supply of materials for hugelkultur and no-till gardening methods, and have a free source for wood mulch year round. However, those can both contribute to problems with squash bugs and we’ve certainly had our share of them.

RELATED ARTICLE: Squash vine borer prevention and treatment.

What Do Squash Bugs Look Like?

Adult Squash Bug Picture

adult squash bug image; brown speckled garden bug on squash
Squash bugs (Anasa Tristis) – Image by Univ. of Mass., Amherst Extension

Squash Bug Laying Eggs

Squash bug (Anasa Tristis) – Image credit – Entomological Society of America (ESA)

Squash Bug Eggs and Nymph Picture

squash bug eggs and nymphs picture via University of Massachusetts Extension Service
Squash bugs (Anasa Tristis) eggs & nymphs – Image by Univ. of Mass., Amherst Extension

An ounce of prevention is worth many pounds of healthy squash!

Squash Bug Prevention. How to prevent squash bugs from attacking your squash, pumpkins, gourdes, melons and cucumber naturally.

Wishing You Healthy Pest Free Plants!


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