Your garden could be thriving with cucumbers, melons, and zucchini plants, all for the pesky squash bug to come in and take over the next day. Instead, what was once a flourishing summer garden has left your squash plants in despair. Learning how to use neem oil for squash bugs is your best path to fight this nasty little garden pest.
Every year, gardeners seek ways to get rid of cabbage worms, stink bugs, aphids, fungus gnats, and other detrimental insects. Squash bug control is crucial because this insect snacks on so many different types of plants. Eventually, they end up destroying your crops and all of your hard work with them.
Using neem oil to kill squash bugs is typically your most reasonable chance at protecting your squash leaves from damage. While it may keep them away, does neem oil kill squash bugs? Keep reading to learn how effective neem oil for squash bugs can be.
- What are Squash Bugs?
- How to Use Neem Oil for Squash Bugs
- Other Ways to Prevent Squash Bugs
What are Squash Bugs?
Each year, our gardens face numerous problems. Most plants do a decent job of surviving diseases and bug infestations among powdery mildew, spider mites, and cucumber beetles.
However, that doesn’t mean that we don’t need to protect them from time to time. The more effort you put into squash bug control, the more successful you’ll be at keeping pests out and inviting beneficial insects in.
The squash beetle is an insect that originates from Central America. They have small, brownish-black bodies covered in tiny hairs. These hairs allow the squash bug nymphs to feel their way around the plant. Some people mistake them for stink bugs.
The Life Cycle of the Squash Bug
Squash beetles overwinter in plant debris from your garden, such as under a fallen leaf or inside a pile of mulch. The adult squash bug emerges in the spring and immediately rushes to your garden beds to feast on young squash leaves. As more gather, they start to mate and lay bug eggs on the undersides of the leaves.
Squash bug damage happens when adults feed on the leaves and stems of Cucurbit plants. After they suck the sap out, the leaves wilt until they brown and die. If the plant can’t continue to produce enough leaves, it dies.
Females lay oval-shaped bronze squash bug eggs in clusters or clumps. After the larvae emerge from the eggs, they are ravenous and continue to feed on the plants in your garden until they reach adulthood.
Those who survive attacks from predators take five or six weeks to reach maturity. They then hunker down for the rest of winter, and the entire process repeats itself.
Because they like the heat, northern gardeners may only have to deal with one wave of bugs while southern gardeners usually deal with two.
Between squash bugs, squash vine borers, and tomato hornworms, you should start learning how to use neem oil for squash bugs right away. Does neem oil kill squash bugs and other pests? Let’s find out.
Does Neem Oil Kill Squash Bugs?
Neem oil is one of the most highly effective types of horticultural oils that you can buy. Not only will using neem oil to kill squash bugs work, but it is effective in ridding the garden of other Cucurbit plant threats as well.
Neem oil insecticide works by combining five active chemicals similar to the hormones of many different insect species. When ingested, these chemicals make the bugs lose their appetites and stunt their growth. It even causes infertility in some female bugs. Use neem oil to repel cabbage worms, aphids, and more for a pest-free garden.
How to Use Neem Oil for Squash Bugs
Using neem oil to kill squash bugs is possible. Neem oil works great to get rid of zucchini bugs just as easily. Scroll through this list of practical ways to use neem oil in the garden, as well as some other great products to protect your fruits and veggies.
Using Neem Oil to Kill Squash Bugs
Neem oil comes in different concentrations up to three percent. As a topical solution, it clogs the airways of the bugs and suffocates them. Here is one of the simplest recipes for a DIY Neem oil spray.
To make this squash bug killer, mix equal parts neem oil and Castile soap in a small dish. Pour the soapy solution into a spray bottle and fill it with water. Spray the soapy water lightly over the surface of your garden plants to kill squash bug nymphs and other potential threats.
The eggs are the only stage of the bugs that seem to resist neem oil. If you use extra-soapy water, the neem oil insecticide sticks to the plants longer and is more effective on the squash bug eggs.
As a bonus, this neem oil soap is also a great way to get rid of stink bugs on tomatoes, too. It works on a variety of unwanted insects.
A Neem Oil Soak
Another way to treat your plants with neem oil is to soak their roots. For a natural squash beetle deterrent, mix two tablespoons of raw neem oil into one gallon of water. Pour two to four cups of the neem oil and water solution over the roots of each affected plant.
To use neem oil on your plants this way, the roots soak up the liquid, and the plant’s sap will now contain the dangerous chemical, Azadiractin, that kills the bugs. Any pest that drinks from your plants will soon be dead. This method only lasts for about two and a half weeks, so reapply throughout the growing season.
Does Neem Oil Work on Squash Vine Borers?
Squash vine borers are different from squash beetles, yet they are equally destructive in their larval form. Vine borers burrow into the vines of your plants and feast from the inside out. Neem oil soaks seem to be the most effective on these pests. However, you might have to switch to more effective methods for a bad infestation.
Other Ways to Prevent Squash Bugs
While understanding how to use neem oil for squash bugs does have good results, other forms of prevention make your borders even more impossible to penetrate.
The popular saying that “the best defense is a good offense” is valid for gardening. When you get ahead of the problem and put multiple protective measures into place, your plants stand the best chance at survival.
Squash bugs are prevalent pests throughout the country and the chances that you see them during the growing season are high.
There is a reason that floating row covers are so popular. Floating row covers are made of a woven material that you can gently place over your crops. The material still allows sunlight and moisture to come through, but it keeps insects from landing on and eating your squash leaves.
Choosing Resistant Cultivars
Each plant has several different cultivars. Some of these plants have a built-in resistance by being less attractive to the bugs. When you take the time to research the cultivars you work with, you put preventative measures in place before a seed even touches the soil.
Transplanting vs. Sowing Seeds
Many gardeners get a sense of accomplishment from sowing their own seeds. However, discourage pest activity by using young transplants instead. Emerging seedlings are when the plants are at their most vulnerable to attacks.
If you prefer, start the seeds indoors and wait until they’re larger before transplanting them outdoors.
Using Trellising to Deter Squash Bugs
Squash bugs prefer to spend their time hiding between the underside of leaves and the soil surface. When you allow your squash plants to grow up trellises, you remove the cool, moist environment that the bugs typically hang out in.
Support systems also make it harder for the bugs to hide, making it easier for you to remove them and for their predators to find them.
Practicing Crop Rotation
Crop rotation alone won’t prevent these pests from coming to your garden beds. Still, if your plants are wilting and appearing yellow, crop rotation is essential to prevent bacteria from spreading to other plants.
It stops nutrients from being depleted from the soil. Generally, if you plant squash and cucumber plants one year, change the types of plants that grow in the same spot the following year.
Diatomaceous earth is equally, if not more, effective at killing all sorts of garden pests and is non-toxic for humans and animals. Sprinkle this white powder around your crops to get rid of an infestation.
Natural Squash Bug Predators
Keeping the amount of outside work to a minimum is essential. However, some people prefer to let nature do all the hard work instead. Introducing natural predators to the squash bug gives your garden its own system of checks and balances.
For example, by companion planting carrots or Queen Anne’s lace, you can attract the Tachinid fly, a natural squash bug predator. Ground beetles and damselflies are two other predators that prey upon the eggs of the squash bug. Grow some squash bug repellent plants at the borders of your garden. Another good companion plant for squash bugs is garlic.
Add the required ingredients to a spray jar and screw the top on. When ready to use, add the concentrate to one gallon of water and stir thoroughly. Pour the garlic water into a garden sprayer and spray your crops liberally. Repeat this process as often as needed or until all squash bugs are killed.
Regular Clean Up
Though bitter cold winters are capable of killing squash bugs, they are still fairly good at overwintering, and no amount of cold is going to kill all of them. Try to reduce the number of places that the adults could hunker down in.
Rake up fallen leaves around your yard and dispose of them in yard waste bags or compost piles. Cut back and remove all trimming from your perennial plants. Pull and dispose of leftover vegetable plants in your garden beds.
While most people rely on mulch during the growing season, leaving a thick layer could provide the insects a place to keep warm over winter. If possible, remove as much mulch as possible to keep these bugs from emerging in the spring. This applies to straw mulch as well.
Removing Squash Eggs by Hand
Every gardener needs to know the importance of removing insect eggs as soon as possible. This is one of the greatest forms of defense. To remove squash bug eggs, grab a spoon, an empty plastic bowl, water, and some dishwashing liquid.
Use the spoon to scrape the squash bug eggs into your bowl of soapy water. Swish the spoon around inside the soapy water if the eggs don’t come off easily. This method works for removing nymphs and adults as well.
Tape is also useful for removing eggs. Nonetheless, it isn’t as gentle as the first method and could cause more damage. Use a piece of heavy-duty tape, such as masking tape, and press the sticky part to the eggs. Pull the tape off quickly and check that all the eggs are removed.
We work hard all year long in hopes that we get to harvest big, beautiful crops at the end of the growing season. The last thing any home gardener wants is to get a squash bug infestation that leaves your crops completely devastated.
There are some pretty tricky bugs to deal with when you’re a gardener. Still, squash bugs are some of the more manageable ones. This doesn’t mean they can’t be a nuisance; it just means that there are plenty of ways to get rid of them.
With enough information and a little bit of luck, you can protect your garden from some of the worst pests.
If learning how to use neem oil for squash bugs has helped your crops thrive, share this guide on using neem oil to kill squash bugs on Facebook and Pinterest.