Removing squash bug eggs from leaves can offset infestation
In summer months, gardeners may find several types of insects feeding on their squash plants. The worst of these uninvited guests include the so-called squash bug, which can damage the plants causing a reduced vegetable yield.
A sure sign of this type of damage appears when the plant wilts and dies, even though it may have appeared healthy the day before. In addition to harming squash plants, squash bugs also cause damage to pumpkin plants.
About 18 mm long as an adult with a dark gray body and wings, squash bugs move into areas where curcurbit plants grow.
“Shortly after mating an egg mass is laid, typically in a pattern, on the leaf surface,” writes Paul McLeod of the University of Arkansas in the article, “Identification, Biology and Management of Insects Attacking Vegetables in Arkansas.”
These eggs have a copper color and form a pattern on leaves. Though the eggs typically appear on the underside of leaves, the squash bug eggs can also be found on the tops of leaves.
Squash bugs “feed by inserting their piercing mouthparts into the plant, injecting a digestive toxin and extracting plant fluids,” McLeod writes. Since a heavy infestation of squash bugs can weaken and damage the plant and fruit, controlling them is important.
McLeod suggests destroying the curcurbit plants as soon as harvest has ended and controlling the weeds. This eliminates the feeding source and helps offset feeding on other curcurbits.
Also, as leaves die back, gardeners should remove them promptly since decaying leaves can attract other pests.
In addition to removing the food source, gardeners should also remove the eggs from the leaves since the eggs will hatch in 8-10 days, McLeod writes, bringing more problems with additional bugs.