Friday, January 30, 2015

No squash in 2015 because we didn't squish the squash bugs in 2014....

This post is copied in from our previous blog and was originally posted on 9 August 2014.  We won't have any squash, melons, or cucumbers in 2015 although we will plant one sentinel/sacrificial squash to determine the extent of our problems for this season.

Many people refuse to grow squash because the squash bugs always win.  I have now lost winter squash two years running to these ... ehmmm.... pests.  People in the garden with me can always tell when I've found a new set by the profanities I mutter.  I'm not a fan of squash bugs and, truthfully, for our community garden, I think we need to have a bit of a break from squash.  I wouldn't go so far as to say the bugs have won but they've certainly woRn me down.

I don't know why but they seem especially fond of winter squash.  I don't think any of our gardeners had summer squash this year so perhaps they were forced to eat winter squash.  But last year (2013), there was a spectacular zucchini with a healthy population of squash bugs that produced prolifically anyway.  The squash, I mean, although the bugs probably reproduced prolifically as well.  "Squash bugs, paaahhh!", that plant seemed to say, with a defiant toss of its head.

But this year (2014)... We have only winter squash.  And, we didn't have a 'bug patrol.'  Everyone, I think, knows what the eggs look like.  And the adults.  But, here's what a totally destroyed plant looks like.  Each LEAF sported on the order of 50 or more bugs.  It was a sad and sobering sight.  As I sprayed soapy water on the bugs they dropped to the ground and hurried off.  They know me now and I can't get close to them any more - they scurry from one to the other side of the leaf - it's rather like playing hide and seek... with pretty high stakes for them.  I suspect that soapy water has somewhere between limited and no effect on the adults but I'm hoping it kills the nymphs...  I don't like to think that I'm a rabid bug hater and go around killing bugs indiscriminately but our squash bugs appear to have no predators who can keep up with their exploding population other than, well, me.

The worst part, though, was watching the bugs disperse through the mulch, knowing that they can (and no doubt will) winter over and be ready for any squash that we might dare to plant next spring.  I sadly watched about twenty of them burrow under the mulch to find a new, safer home for the winter.  I hope we'll be ready next spring!

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