“Come into my Parlor” said the Spider to the Fly

Or in this case…said the Soap to the Squash Beetle.  I’ve been struggling the last few weeks with a squash bug infestation in my garden.  At first I didn’t worry overly much about it.  In the past I’ve had great success with Safe Solutions.  But either these are super bugs with kryptonite armor or the Safe Solutions product has changed.  I’m disheartened to think that I’m not going to be able to rely on this product any more.  But I’m a results kind of person, and if nothing else has changed and it’s not working effectively against squash bugs, then I can’t trust it to work right in other areas.

A couple of weeks of waging this war has resulted in heavy casualties…on my side.

It’s very frustrating!  All that care and work in growing healthy beautiful plants…all the spraying and squishing…all the sweat, tears, and cursing…only to watch things get worse and worse.  One patch of pumpkins and the cucumbers decimated…the other patch of pumpkins and melons seriously damaged.  Then to pour more salt into the wound, I found squash beetles and eggs on my tomato plants.  These bugs prefer the cucumber/pumpkin/melon vines…but apparently will go for other plants too.  I didn’t know this.

For those who might not know…this is what a squash beetle looks like.  He’s on the right…and those are eggs on the left.  Usually they like to hang out on the underside of the leaves and will usually lay their eggs there too…in the V parts of the leaves.  But this time these creepy crawlies have been brazen and bold…laying their eggs just about everywhere.  I guess there’s so many of them they don’t feel they need to be all that sneaky.

This is what they look like just after hatching.

And this is an adolescent…I think they’re called nymphs.

I’m going to admit something.  The young and baby squash beetles completely freak me out.  The nymphs remind me of tics…and the babies move like spiders!  It’s taken all my courage to turn over leaves looking for these creepy crawlies to annihilate.  And annihilate I have been doing!

The tide of the war has turned!  A few days ago…with a feeling of defeat and with little hope of finding anything nontoxic, I did a google search for ways to deal with these bugs.  I found something…and it’s so simple that it was almost too hard to believe!  But with nothing else to loose…and because I’m not willing to go to toxic measures (for many reasons)…I decided to give it a try.  I wish I’d known about this weeks ago…years ago!

Simple liquid dish soap.  That’s it.  Nothing fancy.  Nothing toxic.  Nothing expensive!  Just some with water and spray on the squash beetle…then listen for the sound of it falling in death.  Spritz…plunk!  Spritz…plunk!  I think I found a new sound I love.  I didn’t measure…sorry…I just dumped some soap in a spray bottle of water.  It turned the water nice and green…because my dish soap is green.  (50 points to anyone who can guess which brand of soap I used!)  It does work…so if you try this and it doesn’t seem to be working, just add more soap.  Apparently this works because these particular bugs breath only through their skin (do bugs have skin?), and the soapy water creates a unbreathable coating on their bodies.  The young squash beetles die within seconds…the adults can take up to about a minute from what I noticed.

Doesn’t that look satisfying?!?

A word of warning.  Spraying the soapy mix on your leaves will also create a shiny layer on the plant’s leaves.  This can increase the chance of leaf burn.  I don’t have much more to loose at this point, but in the future I’ll only do this in the morning and then make sure to wash off the leaves shortly after.  This time I went out 3 or 4 times that first day, sprayed all that I could see and then went back out a bit later to wash off the leaves.  I don’t have much hope of saving my plants…but it can’t hurt to hope a bit.  That first day I’m sure I killed close to a hundred each time I went out.  Each day there were less and less.  This morning I only found 1 adult…but several babies and nymphs still.  That’s going to be the biggest battle left to fight.  There are so many eggs all over.  I did find a new trick to deal with the eggs in the future…I don’t have the patience to do it right now.

That’s just duct tape…looped around my fingers with the sticky side out.  Takes very little effort to get the eggs off without damaging the leaves.  Again I wish I’d known about this weeks ago.  So lesson learned.  Don’t assume, in our economy, that a product is going to work like it did before (isn’t that sad?)…and hit the squash beetles hard from the beginning!

The final battles are won…but I fear the war is lost nonetheless.  Over the next few weeks, if I don’t see good growth in the last of the struggling pumpkins and melons, we’ll be pulling them out and replacing them with something else for the fall garden.

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One thought on ““Come into my Parlor” said the Spider to the Fly

  1. Years ago I used dish soap and water to kill bugs in the garden, but had forgotten it…other thing was garlic and water to kill or ward of aphids..tomato plants and rose bushes..Sorry I didn’t remember !

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