I'm feeling slightly stupid. Here I was watching the squash wilt and thinking they were just unhappy in the extreme heat. Well I finally got around to weeding and looking more closely at my plants and discovered a total infestation of squash bugs. I've removed all the eggs I can find and am trying to pick off the bugs I can catch - those little ones squish easily but disappear quickly. Anyone have any non-toxic advice for those of us who did not wait until after July 4 to plant squash? (By the way does that really work?) Will chickens pick them out?

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i've heard that flour or ash scattered at the base of the plant will suffocate them. i don't have squash bugs yet this year so haven't tested this out on live subjects.
Ash will increase the alkalinity of the soil, not a good thing. the bugs are all over the plant, not just at the base, and even diatomaceous earth will have little effect on these guys. the organic pesticides rotenone and pyrethrum (often sold as a mix) will kill the young nymphs, but as they age they become quite chemically resistant. the non-organic spray of choice has always been carbaryl (i.e. Sevin), but i've heard of some squash bugs will an apparent resistance to that (probably because it is used so often).
Our chickens would never eat them. Some people reccomend Diatomaceous earth, I haven't tried it yet. I was picking off bugs and squashing eggs but then I was out town for ten days and I think I may have lost the battle. All of the squash in our garden were volunteers this year and I guess should have pulled them up.
the only non-toxic control i know of is to physically squish them between thumb and forefinger. speaking of toxins, the bugs secrete a toxin in their saliva which accounts for some of the fast decline in the plants. I've used a hand-help propane torch to burn them off; while it damages the plant, it is less damaging than the bugs.

planting late helps, in that most of the overwintering adults will have settled down and there is less new infestations - not none, but less. chickens, in my experience, don't care for the taste of squash bugs.

some people plant a trap crop early. pumpkins are real good for this. you plant as early as reasonable for squashes, in an area as far from your garden as practical, and when the bugs find the trap crop, you destroy them (again, torching works well).

i've tried row covers over the plants, which works up until bloom, but then the cover has to come off in order for pollination to ha[[en.
Thanks for all the advice. I have a follow up question. In perusing the internet, I've seen a lot of advice to "clear debris" at the end of the season and dispose of by landfill or burning. For those of us who are learning that "debris" can refuel our soil, what do we believe regarding the debris fueling later infestations issue?
You can try a mixture of soap and water. I use a mixture of soap/water and tobacco leaves (not non-toxic). Also in the late fall I turn over the soil where my squash is at in hopes of freezing the squash bugs.
Has anyone tried the "Garden Safe" brand? I'm pretty sure it won't pass muster for anyone growing organically, but I've used one or two of their products, and it's worked well (and fast) for me. Last year, my roses, tomato plants, and a few other flowers had infestations of everything under the sun, and I used the bottle that kills fungus, bugs, etc., and everything was fine after only two treatments. Last week, I had little black bugs all over my oleanders and my snapdragons, and after one hosing with the Houseplant and Garden Insect Killer bottle, they were all gone. I used it on my hibiscus too, and no bugs there anymore. I know I'm cursing myself for this, but no bugs yet on the veggies (other than those awful horn worms on my tomato), so I haven't tested this particular bottle there. The Garden Safe brand has a few different varieties of bug/fungus remedies, and is at Lowe's, Home Depot, and *shudder* WalMart. Like I said before, I highly doubt this will help for those who grow without chemicals, but maybe will be useful to someone out there...


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