One of the most hated garden enemies are squash bugs! There are certain issues in edible gardening that just never seem to go away, and one of them is squash bugs.
adult squash bugs, Anasa tristis, can quickly destroy a gardener’s dream of having fresh produce. They infest squashes, gourds, cucumbers, and other cucurbits. In a way, they’re like cockroaches – by the time you see one, it’s too late! You probably have hundreds hidden and they become difficult to control very quickly.
Gardeners go to great lengths to stop them once they realize they have them. They use sticky traps, hand removal, chemicals, vacuums (to suck them up) and anything else you can think of. Once you start the battle, entrench yourself and wage war. It’s unfortunate, but unless the gardener is early, skilled, diligent and relentless, the bugs usually win.
Let’s talk pumpkin for a moment. What is the difference between summer squash and winter squash? Summer squash are soft-skinned fruits (fruits because they contain seeds and develop from the flower-producing part of the plant) that ripen in a relatively short time – 45 to 60 days. They are usually harvested while still immature and the rind is tender and edible.
Although not all Cucurbita Pepo are considered summer squash, most varieties are. They tend to grow bushy, and Oklahoma folks love to plant them once the threat of the last spring frost has passed (the average last frost in OKC is March 30). This tendency is one of the actions that often prove fatal in the fight against squash bugs.
Winter squashes, on the other hand, have harder outer shells and are suitable for overwintering and long-term storage. They take longer to mature, 80 to 110 days, so planting time for Oklahoma is around June 10th. They prefer to be seeded directly and tend to have large leaves with a pendulous or spreading habit. Some strains are just too heavy for trellis at full production, but other strains certainly benefit. In Zone 7 we are fortunate to be able to grow a wide variety of summer and winter squash.
Back to the bugs, when you’re fighting a war it helps to know a little bit about your enemy. One thing we do know is that female squash bugs lay small clusters of around 20 to 30 eggs on the underside of the leaves, and they usually start appearing in early June and continue laying eggs until mid-summer. In Oklahoma, mid-summer means mid-July. At this point they are nearing the end of their oviposition cycle. That doesn’t mean they don’t lay any eggs after this time. It simply means that they are nearing the end of their heaviest oviposition period.
Because of this, many gardeners have found that if you plant summer squash after July 4th, you won’t have to fight as hard to rid yourself of these monsters! It’s a numbers game. After midsummer they lay fewer eggs, fewer eggs means fewer bugs, fewer bugs mean less damage to your plants and less fighting. Although the word “summer” is in the name, summer squash can be planted almost year-round in Oklahoma.
With so many growers excited about planting summer squash early in the season, it’s easy to pick up something cheap at a local farmer’s market. After they get tired of growing it (and fighting the bugs), you can plant yours without so much frustration. During half of the growing season you support local growers and the other half you grow it yourself. It’s a win-win situation.
Gardeners fighting squash beetles are a microcosm of the spiritual realm of life. It’s good versus evil. One side wants to plant, nourish and produce good fruit, the other wants to destroy and kill. Thanks be to our Heavenly Father, who loves us so much that he provided a way for us to overcome evil. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Friends, the globe is groaning. Things are upside down and uncertain, but we were not left alone to battle an unbeatable opponent. Acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God. Realize that He is the only way to salvation and victory is yours! “where, O death, is thy victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ(1 Corinthians 15:55-57).