Last Sunday I went on an education edible garden tour and learned about the Squash Borer. In the first garden we visited we all noticed a yellowing and flopping squash plant. Was it lack of watering? No! We were seeing the fatal damage caused by a squash borer.
Though I grew squash in Heath for many years I never had squash borers so this was quite an education for me. Espececially since when we got home and looked at the summer squash plants I had put in because I thought all that squash foliage would cover the ground and keep down weeds while other plants grew larger. A couple of my plants also had slightly yellow drooping leaves and evidence of squash borer entry.
The fingertip in the photo is just to give a sense of scale. I immediately went around the garden and found several more plants showing borer damage. A friend told me all I had to do was slit the affected stem with a sharp knife and that would kill the borer. I did some slitting but I also did some online research. I don’t think the slitting will do any good.
The adult vine borer is a moth that will lay its tiny eggs at the base of a stalk. They are not really visible and it is only after they have hatched and begun their entry into the stalk, leaving the evidence of their ‘frass’ (the proper work for borer excrement) at the entry point. You can try to slit the stem and pull out the larva which will grow to an inch long, but there does not seem to be agreement that this will lead to a squash harvest. And to make things worse, since I have borers now, I probably also have pupating borers in my soil that will hatch next spring!
If I wanted to plant squash next year, not likely, I could choose a different spot and keep the squash plants covered with a floating row cover. However, the consensus is that prevention is the best answer. Weekly applications of insecticidal soap have been found effective. Also Btk, Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki, an organic compound found in t he soil can be used regularly. When larva eat this they die. You can spray with Btk weekly or wipe down the stems with Btk or insecticidal soap weekly.
I had visions of tons of squash I could bring to the Center for Self Reliance, but that does not seem likely. However, I’ll be ready if I plant squash next year. Right now that is a big IF.