Real Food Mama

Musings about cooking, eating and everything in between.

Squash Vine Borers – AAAAK! July 30, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — realfoodmama @ 1:17 pm

Once again our squash plants have been attacked by a nasty bug called a squash vine borer.

This bug is particularly nasty because the larvae eat the center of the plant, causing it to collapse on itself and shrivel up and die a horrible death.

Last year the same thing happened to our squash but I blamed it, erroneously it now seems, on ants. Instead the culprit is a moth type creature that looks vaguely like a red and black wasp. The female lays the eggs at the base of the squash plants – and by base I mean exactly where the thing hits the ground. The eggs hatch and become grubs that eat through the outside of the vine and burrow in the hollow section, eating the plant from the inside out. I have been checking the vines for eggs, but apparently didn’t know what to look for as we now have full grown grubs.

I am terribly sad at the moment. Last year our entire squash crop was lost, with the exception of a few zucchini plants. I refuse to go through that again!

There are several things I can try in order to eradicate the grubs. First, I can try cutting into the vine of the plant and removing them, then covering the injured part of the plant with dirt, encouraging it to heal. I have tried that with no success. Sure, I cut into the vine easily enough but did I find any grubs? I sure didn’t!

Secondly, I can try injecting the plants with something called BtK. BtK is basically a bacterial pesticide. Totally harmless to plants and people, it kill caterpillars and grubs. I am hoping that if I inject a liquid for into the plant, the grubs will get sick and die, saving the squash vine from being further devoured. I am not sure if this will work, but it is worth a shot. Our squash plants are beautiful, big and bountiful so far this year. I refuse to let them go down without a fight.

The real kicker to all of this is, of course, that the eggs and larvae can overwinter in the soil. It basically means that any dead squash plants must be burned and that at the end of the season we can’t just leave the vines to compost back into the earth – we will have to actually remove them from the property.

I was told that even though we are practicing crop rotation that unless there is a distance of at least a hundred yards between each location, they might as well be right next to each other.


I will be sure to update the blog as I try this experiment. I would post some pictures but I fed the grubs to the chickens and it is now pouring rain. I will have to get some when I inject the BtK later today.

Wish me luck and think good thoughts for my squash!


4 Responses to “Squash Vine Borers – AAAAK!”

  1. Ugh! No Squash vine borers at my house yet – I’m down in Placitas. But the cucumber beetles have destroyed both of my tomatillo plants again this year. Despite me pulling off leaves with eggs on them and drowning the actual bugs them selves. And I have picked off a dozen tomato hornworms this week too – luckily the chickens love them! I hate destructive bugs!!

    Hope the injection works!

  2. […] my fridge, even though I have dried and baked copious amounts and my plants are suffering from an insect invader that is slowly killing them. I do love the abundance of summer […]

  3. Beth Drechsel Says:

    Have you tried food grade diatomaceous earth? My sister purchased it at It seems to have worked well this year on the squash bugs.

    • realfoodmama Says:

      Hi there!

      Yes I have tried diatomaceous earth and it doesn’t touch them. I have found that frequent dosing with the BtK has worked to mitigate the damage and I have had to pull several plants and kill the grubs in order to keep them from spreading. Apparently the vine borers prefer Hubbard type squash so we will not try to plant these again! Thanks for reading!

      – RFM

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