Common throughout the United States, squash bugs are destructive pests that feed in large groups on the leaves and vines of cucumbers, pumpkins, and winter squash.
Plants are injured by both the adult and nymph stages of the bug when they suck the sap of the plant's vines and leaves. During the feeding process, squash bugs inject a toxic substance into the plant that causes it to wilt and the leaves to become black and die. The condition is similar to the bacterial plant disease known as anasa wilt.
Adults of the squash bug are ⅝ inches long with brown or gray bodies that have a hard shell and 2 sets of wings. Their mouths extend from the head and allow them the ability to suck the sap from the plants.
Squash bug nymphs look similar to a spider and are 1/10 of an inch long with light green or gray bodies, red heads, antennae, and legs. They are more voracious than their parents and feed in clusters.
Adult squash bugs will hibernate during the winter months under fall leaves, rocks, and garden debris. In the late spring, they will emerge to reproduce and feed.
Females will lay their eggs immediately after, depositing tiny brown eggs on the undersides of plant leaves. The eggs hatch within a few weeks and young nymphs emerge to begin feeding.
Adult Squash bugs and their nymphs are active all summer long, so it's best to stop the pests quickly and repeatedly if necessary.
Natural methods are best since they are safe around garden vegetables, humans, and precious pets.
You can handpick both nymphs and adults from the undersides of leaves but do so carefully without squishing them since they can give off an unpleasant odor when crushed.
Placing cardboard around the plants or by them at night act as a barrier of protection and trap for the pests that can be disposed of from the cardboard in the morning.
Using floating row covers on seedling and young plants can help protect them until they are mature enough to tolerate squash bug attacks.
Till gardens after harvesting to disturb and reduce hibernating adults, being aware that they do give off an unpleasant in large numbers and when crushed.
Some natural garden enthusiasts have been known to use newspaper and hay in their mulch to help keep weeds and bugs out of the garden.