Dreaded Squash Borer: Argggh!

Squash trellis updatedI switched out the old picture for this updated one of our squash trellis. We had a nasty surprise on this one this past weekend -shown by the less leafy left side of the trellis. A section of a beautiful squash vine suddenly wilted along with a few leaves on another vine. I quickly read about why this might happen, and started to look for any signs of orangey sawdust piles near the base of the plants to see if the dreaded squash borer might be the problem. Well, I didn’t see these at the base, as is frequently described on garden sites. But we had a few leaves that were wilting mid-vine up the trellis. There I did see an orangey pile on the leaf stem so I slit it open. I still found nothing until I slit it up a few inches towards the main stem and found the little larvae chomping away inside. I killed it, but I wondered if there might be more, as this vine only had one wilted leaf and another vine had several.

I checked the leaves on the second wilted vine, but couldn’t find any borer. This vine had a squash that was pretty far along and I didn’t want to abandon ship. Although multiple vine slits do not bode well for its survival, I untangled the vine from others on the trellis, untied the twine, and laid it on the ground. I saw two good places for potential root nodes, so mounded dirt over these sections and watered them in hopes that new roots would help support the vine. I suspect a borer may still be inside somewhere, so I will need to try to rid the plant of them soon for the rest of it to thrive. Here is a picture of the vine that we hope to save. The other leaves don’t look too bad yet and I hope they stay that way until more roots form.

Squash vine on the groundGiven our experience, I’m skeptical about the tips to just cover the base of a plant with tin foil or pantyhose early in the season, because ours appeared to have eggs laid mid vine up the trellis. What to do to avoid these next year? I can’t wind pantyhose around the entire length of each vine. The U of MN Extension site suggests using floating row covers for two weeks after an adult moth is seen, usually in late June to early July. This requires hand pollination during the time they are covered. I could try that, but nature does it so much better. We may also try getting a yellow container to fill with water as a trap in late June next year to warn us of their presence –  another tip from the site.

Two years ago we had to learn to keep white moths off our Brussel sprouts with netting. Now – it’s moths on squash. We hope these have not gotten into other vines. We have three varieties planted, of which two are susceptible (Buttercup and Acorn) and one is not (Butternut). I’ll continue to monitor all the vines, and hope for the best.

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One Response to Dreaded Squash Borer: Argggh!

  1. I’ve read that a lot of vine eating insects do not like radishes! Supposedly if you plant a few radish seeds with your cucumbers, it will keep the beetles and borers at bay. I didn’t learn this until after I planted, but I found a local organic farmer at the market this weekend and bought a bunch of smallish, recently picked radishes that I knew were free from pesticides. Trimmed off the bad leaves and planted them near my cukes and squash, in hopes that they will work their magic before it’s too late and I get hit by the borers too! (I’m actually using them to fight cucumber beetles right now. Argh.)

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