Having trouble with something chewing up your squash?
You could be dealing with a pesky pest, the squash vine borer.
The black and orange insect can kill plants, and the North Carolina Extension Service cautions that problems may be developing about now for some gardeners.
The squash vine borer is a pest of squash, pumpkins and gourds and on occasion, cucumbers and melons. The larvae of this pest bore into stems and prevent the plant from receiving water and nutrients. The outcome is usually death for the unfortunate plant.
Eggs are laid on leaves by green moths in the spring and when the eggs hatch in late May, white larvae tunnel in to the stems and feed for about four to five weeks. Insecticides must be sprayed before the larvae get inside the stem of the plant. This should be done just before the vine starts to run. The base of the plant is the critical area to treat. Apply to the base of the plant 4 times at seven-day intervals. Ortho Bug B Gon Max Lawn & Garden Insect Killer and Bonide Eight Vegetable and Flower Dust are products that are readily available to homeowners to help in the control of squash vine borer. Because there are two generations per year of this insect, plants should be treated again in late July and early August as the second-generation hatches.
Symptoms of squash vine borer include plants that wilt suddenly and the appearance of holes filled with green sawdust in plant stems. White worms up to one inch in length can be found in the stem when split open with a knife.
When squash vine borer has been a problem, all plant residues should be removed from the garden at the end of the season. Sanitation is very important to the long-term health of the vegetable garden. Many insects and diseases can over winter in dead plant material.
Destroy infected plants. If you have an infected/dead plant, you should discard of it so the larvae can’t come back as an adult next year. I gave all of the dying squash plants to the chickens. If you have chickens, you will know that the only thing more destructive than a flock of chickens would probably be fire. My chickens took great delight in shredding and pecking the vines. I’m pretty certain if they didn’t eat the squash vine borer larva, they at least stomped them to death.