Wilting is a first sign of squash vine borer infestation
This morning I noticed my zucchini plants had wilted. Watering didn’t help; they stayed wilted. This is the first sign of squash vine borer infestation. The moth that I saw on the plants about 3 weeks ago must have laid eggs on the stems. That would mean the larvae are now present in the stems causing the wilting by sucking the life out of my plants.
This is one of the more difficult pests to control. Chemicals rarely work in killing the bug, and I prefer not to use them anyway. Besides being bad for me, they also are bad for the pollinators that visit the plant. So, what to do? I can try cutting into the stem on it’s axis and try to find and remove the larvae and cover the stems with soil, but that hasn’t worked well in the past. Unfortunately the best thing to do is to pull out the plant before the larvae has a chance to hatch and burrow into the ground to return next year.
In anticipation of the borer, since it’s come every year for the past 10 years, I started a second crop of plants in pots. I transplanted them into the garden last week. They should be fine because they sprouted after the period when the moth lays eggs. Now if only they can grow fast enough to produce zucchini before the frost.
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This morning I sighted a squash vine borer moth flying around my zucchini plants. It’s red body was a dead giveaway. I chased it trying to squish it between my flip flops which I had grabbed off my feet to use as a bug killer. It got away. It briefly hovered over the gord plants and then flew off.
This is what it looks like. I didn’t take this picture. I’m too busy trying to kill them to take time to photograph them. I rarely kill anything; I even put spiders back outside when they wander into the house. But this moth and the tomato hornworm are the exception.
This nasty moth lays eggs on the stems of the leaves, near the base of the plant, which hatch and turn into larvae. These will bore into the main stem and feed off the plant eventually killing it. When they are grown, they emerge from the plant, dig into the ground and hibernate until next year beginning the cycle again. This year I am not going to let it continue. At least not in my garden.
I removed what looked like a few eggs from the stems, but it is almost impossible to catch them all as they are very tiny. Now begins daily inspection of the plants for damage. If I see it’s infected, I’ll pull the plant and send it away with the recycling. Never put an infected plant in the compost pile.
Let the battle begin.
To be continued…
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RIP squash plants.
Healthy Squash Plant
Over the past few days most of my squash and zucchini plants have wilted and died from squash vine borer. The two plants left have the telltale signs of frass protruding from small holes at the base of the vine. I knew it was inevitable; I’ve been gardening for years and they always manage to get to my plants sooner or later. I fried up my last dozen flowers today and savored every bite of them.
The squash vine borer is actually a moth that lays its eggs on the leaf stalks. The moths emerge from the ground about the same time the vines begin to run. When the eggs hatch, the larvae enter the stems and feed for 4 to 6 weeks. When they are fully grown they leave the stems to burrow into the ground to pupate until next spring. Then they start the cycle over again and emerge as moths and ruin another one of my squash crops.
I have tried everything to stop them. Nothing works. Row covers, wrapping the stems in foil, cutting the stem and removing the bug. Pesticides were not an option for me. The recommended pesticide for this bug is Sevin, which is extremely toxic to bees and other beneficial insects. I have a hive of bumble bees about 3 feet from the vines. And besides, once the larvae are inside the stem, pesticides do not work.
So next year I am going to try and outsmart them. I’m going to plant 3 or 4 successive crops of squash 14 days apart. When I see the signs that a plant is infected (the small holes at the base of the vine), I’ll pull the plant from the ground and send it off with the landscape waste (not to the compost pile) before the larvae mature. This way they will not get into the ground only to return next year. The plant was going to die anyway, I’m just pulling it a little early. And by planting successive crops I’ll still have zucchini and squash.
I’m hoping if I do this for a year or two I won’t have any more borers in the ground. It’s worth a try, nothing else worked.
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