The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Squash vine borer control

Butterstick Hybrid squashThe squash vine borer will be hitting our farm shortly --- I know because the first brilliant flowers have come out on the summer squash.  With the impending collapse of our plants looming, I've resolved to find a better solution than Bt.  Bacillus thuringiensis is rated organic but is still a relatively broad spectrum insecticide, which means it may be doing more harm than good by killing beneficials that would otherwise wipe out the borer.  In addition, try as we might to spray once a week and after rains, Bt doesn't seem to be preventing the total destruction of our summer squash crop each year.  We're both willing to do without summer squash for a year or two, if need be, while we figure out a better option.

This year, we're keeping our experiments simple.  I'm planting a new bed of summer squash every two weeks to give me an idea of the timing of the infestation.  In the north, you can just plant your summer squashes late, after the fourth of July, and the vine borer Unopened female squash flowerwill have finished its flying stage.  In the south, though, the vine borer has multiple generations, so I'm not sure how early I can plant squash and still miss the insect's depradations.  A planting at the beginning of August 2009 netted us a bounty of summer squash...for about two weeks before the frost hit.  I'm hoping to be able to plant a bit earlier than that and still miss the borer.

Other options to try in later years if the easy route fails include:

  • Planting a more resistant summer squash variety such as Summer Crookneck
  • Using a floating row cover over the plants to physically exclude attack
  • Wrapping something around the stem (panty hose and aluminum foil have both been used) to keep the larvae out
  • Mounding up dirt over the stem at intervals to promote rooting (which would require a different squash variety since we've been planting bush squash)
Our homemade chicken waterer treats our hens to clean, clear water all day long.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Stubmled across the blog while looking for amaranth. This post caught my eye - I lost most my squash last year to this darn bug. I heard someone mention diatomaceous earth (DE) as a soultion to a borer infestation so I tried it out. I planned on getting out and sprinkling this powder early but due to my schedule by the time I got out there one plant already had a borer chomping away. I killed it and sprinkled DE around the stem of all my squash. I haven't found another one since! Maybe it was luck but I'm plan on trying it again next year.

Comment by Jeannette Thu Jun 24 15:41:53 2010
I'd love to hear how your experiments go. I'll add that to my list. So far, we've been miraculously spared from borer infestations this year, but it's just a matter of time.
Comment by anna Thu Jun 24 17:26:24 2010
The answer is in the Bible in Matthew 21:21. Speak outloud directly to the squash borer or other pest by name and command it to leave the garden and never return. This works perfectly 100% if you are a Christian and believer in God's Word. Then follow with a prayer of blessing for an abundant and bountiful crop and enjoy your pest free garden.
Comment by Bill Finley Wed Jul 17 12:08:12 2013

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