One of our biggest garden garden losses a few years ago was our squash crops. We got hit doubly by the dreaded squash vine borer and powdery mildew. It was a one-two punch, especially to our summer squash and pumpkins.
The following year, we implemented a number of strategies to fend off these attackers. Below is a list of our squash vine borer prevention measures, what worked best, and concluding with our latest measures and results.
Squash Vine Borer Prevention
- Starting the growing year fresh with new straw bales
- Planting early and using row covers
- Applying cedar bark mulch along the stems of each vine
- Checking each plant routinely for signs of eggs and/or actual bore holes
- Routine spraying with BCT (Dipel)
Squash Vine Borer Trap
This is something that seems to be working well. If there aren’t too many vine borers in the trap, (we only have one so far), that’s probably a good sign that you don’t have many, but still keep a diligent eye out.
Signs and Symptoms of Squash Vine Borers
- Wilting plants – sudden loss of vitality, mushy plant stems, deteriorating fruit
- Trail of yellow fluff along the stem of squash plants – called “frass”, (the excrement)
- Tiny holes in vines, especially around areas of the frass
If you see any of these signs on your squash plants, you need to take immediate action.
How to Get Rid of Squash Vine Borers
Removing Vine Borers from the Squash Stems
We used to cut the vine borers out of the stems. We’d take a box cutter and slice all the way from the point of entry till we found the borer. Next, after dispatching the borer, we’d wrapped the length of the damaged area like dressing a wound using plastic plant tape.
The alternative was taking a stiff wire and running it into the hole in either direction in order to skewer the borer. The method saved slicing the stem, but it was hard to know if the wire had done its job.
Unfortunately, neither method was all that effective and took considerable time to deploy.
BT Dipel Spray and Injections
Now we’re injecting BT – caterpillar killing bacillus, (Bacillus thuringiensis) into any holes we find, flooding the interior of the stem.
BT (Dipel, etc.,.) is an effective—and proven safe—treatment applied externally as a spray and injected internally into the stem. We’ve applied both procedures and both helped things improve.
To get rid of squash bugs and vine borers takes daily diligence.
We have about 16 squash and pumpkin plants so spending a couple minutes on each one takes about half an hour, but it’s time well spent if it works. Once we spot the yellow fluff along the stem and locate the entry hole, we just insert the curved syringe tip and flood the inside with Dipel BT.
General Garden Update
This week, we’ve seen our climbers jump into action. The beans and squash are beginning to take hold of the various trellis and arch panel systems. As you can see from the photos, we are big fans of “growing up”. Vertical gardening is the best solution for small space gardens, and especially if you want to grow vining crops.
Please let us know what you’re doing that’s working, and we’ll add it here.
Finally, we’d like to share our prototype vertical desk system. The third bin (and most seasoned) of our 3-bin organic composting set-up serves as the base. It’s a good height for standing and offers a central view of the garden patch. As such, it’s nice to work outside the home. And… being a gardener, I don’t actually mind standing over the compost! 👨🏻🌾
How to Get Rid of Squash Bugs and Vine Borers Naturally
In this video, Coleman discusses best solutions for squash vine borer control and treatment.
We welcome any comments and recommendations about dealing with squash pests and the dreaded powdery mildew, or any other gardening topics you may be working with. It’s great to compare notes and discover what really works.
Picture of Squash Vine Borer Bug in a Squash Vine
These little creatures can damage your squash crops very quickly. If you see signs, take action quickly to save your precious plants and food.
May your garden flourish and your harvests be bountiful!
Coleman for GardensAll
P.S. Besides being a gardener, investor, and retired building contractor, I’m also an author. If you like dystopic fiction about Appalachian mountain survivalists clashing with utopic city slickers, please check out Mountain Whispers Books.
If you enjoy poetry and quotes, visit our Garden Memes page.
G. Coleman Alderson is an entrepreneur, land manager, investor, gardener, and author of the novel, Mountain Whispers: Days Without Sun. Coleman holds an MS from Penn State where his thesis centered on horticulture, park planning, design, and maintenance. He’s a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and a licensed building contractor for 27 years. “But nothing surpasses my 40 years of lessons from the field and garden. And in the garden, as in life, it’s always interesting because those lessons never end!” Coleman Alderson