Squash Vine Borer

Squash Vine Borer Control

The squash vine borer is a common and destructive pest of squash, pumpkins, zucchini and gourds. Cucumbers, melons and butternut squash are not generally affected by squash borers. The borer larvae over-winter in the soil as pupae and emerge mid-summer. The squash vine borer is a member of the order Lepidoptera.

Squash Vine Borer Damage: Often times, the first noticeable damage shows up as leaf wilting. The wilting results from borer damage to the vascular system of the plant preventing water and nutrients from reaching all parts of the plant. Affected plants continue to weaken and lose vigor as more feeding occurs. Severe damage can lead the plant to eventually collapse and die as the base rots away. Look for small holes in the base of the plant and droppings (frass) from the borers. Frass looks like sawdust and can be green to orange-yellow in color.

How to Control Squash Vine Borers: Organic methods of control include a mixture of cultural and prevention activities as well as actions to reduce infestations. The key to controlling an outbreak is to catch the infestation early; products for treatment are shown below. Methods of control include:

  • Plant squash as early as possible. Try to plant resistant varieties such as butternut squash.
  • Rotate crops – do not grow squash in the same area in consecutive years.
  • Before or at the time of planting, apply NemaSeek/Nemattack Combo (Hb/Sc) of beneficial nematodes to the soil to eliminate over-wintering pupae.
  • Set up pheromone traps to trap adult squash vine borers early in the growing season. Trapping is helpful when monitoring pest populations early in the season, setting thresholds during the season, and reducing eggs laid throughout the season.
  • Use floating row covers on seedlings to limit pest access to the cultivation area.
  • Apply Bacillus thurengiensis kurstaki or Spinosad during the growing season. These can be applied as a spray or injected directly into the stem of the plant.
For more information please see our Borer Control page.

Photo courtesy of Clemson University Department of Entomology, Soils & Plant Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service.

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