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An opportunity exists to destroy squash bugs - but it requires a tough decision

The worst pest of squash, melons and cucumbers.
The worst pest of squash, melons and cucumbers.

Zone 6 gardeners are finally out from under the ice, snow and frigid weather which plagued them since last fall and some of the early season crops are going in already. Lettuce, cabbage, chard, beets and all the cold–hardy vegetable types are being seeded and transplanted into their beds, with high hopes for a productive growing season.

But let’s look ahead a month or so. Pumpkins, cucumbers, melons plus winter and summer squash are staples in many home gardens. But many home gardens have also been plagued in previous years by Anasa tristis, more commonly known as the squash bug. This ugly, grey, ½” to ¾” insect is simply the most potent and destructive scourge of squash plants and their relatives in the northeast United States.

These pesticide resistant creatures live by one simple ritual. They suck squash and related plants dry, destroying the plant and the fruits, and they reproduce. They perform both functions exceedingly well. Plants really have no chance for survival in a serious outbreak, and serious outbreaks are all Zone 6 has had the past few seasons.

Paradoxically last winters’ extra cold, protracted and intense as it was, provides a window of opportunity to get the best of these pests, but a hard choice must be made. The choice is to simply not grow any squash, pumpkins, melons, cucumbers or gourds in 2014.

The cold killed the majority of the overwintering insects. The lack of food – they cannot eat, say, eggplant or tomatoes – will kill the rest. You can look forward to many seasons without squash bugs, if you simply do not feed them this year.

Can you tolerate a year without some of your favorite vegetables on the table if it means years of trouble free growing? This is the tough choice you will need to make.

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