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Killing off squash beetles over winter in mulch

 
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I keep my garden beds mulched, and am about to start dumping massive amounts of leaves on them.
I lost all of my squash and related plants primarily to squash beetles, a few to vine borers. I have heard the eggs (or something) overwinter in mulch, and I'm trying to figure out if there's a way to kill off the eggs without scraping off my mulch.

I don't think I can get all the mulch off the property enough to kill off the eggs. I need my mulch to improve this mess. This soil has serious issues, and I don't think there is any "bare dirt" to clear it down to.

Questions:
Anyone have any good ideas? I'll listen to almost anything. 2 years ago, first year I had a garden at this rental, I lost well over 100 plants to them. This year I didn't plant as many, lost all of them.

Is there a way to freeze or burn the eggs to death? Not sure how much use burning would be, as I doubt there are eggs only right where the plants were. The things fly.

What about suffocating them with enough mulch? How much would be enough?

I could really use some suggestions.
Thanks!
:D


 
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It's the adults that overwinter, and yes they like leaves and other debris. Chickens would be the obvious answer but may well be impractical.
 
Pearl Sutton
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Currently impractical to get chickens, yes.
Adults? Hmm.
Would that make them easier to kill off? There has to be a way to kill full grown bugs....
Wonder if I could bait wild birds to dig in the mulch... Probably not, they go after the worms, but haven't dented the bug population that I can tell.

thanks :D
 
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Your mulch is really valuable, Pearl, and I would keep it using some local variation of a squash decoy strategy.
Here at my place, I start decoy squash plants as early as possible using the previous October's pumpkin seeds nestled near rotting pumpkin chunks. I plant the seeds multiple times in case I get a late frost. This patch attracts most of the squash bugs. I burn the infested patch (usually June) then plant my real crop some distance away from the decoy patch. I limit the number of plants to about 10 so I can regularly check the leaves for bugs and those little copper-colored egg formations.
Perhaps the decoy method could work for you in your infected patch. To keep the burn area small, plant your early decoy seeds abundantly in a small area within the old patch where it is safe to burn. Piling your old mulch in one area may help create a border for the burn zone.  Once the bugs hatch, they'll move toward the surface to find food. The beautiful tender decoy plants will attract them. Water the soil well but keep the plants dry. When you start seeing eggs, it is time for the fire offering to the squash gods. Have your water hose (for safety) and a hand-held torch at the ready (for the ones who try to get away).
Plant your new squash seeds about a week before the fire (within the germination period). After burning the decoys, you'll have to keep an eye out for the squash bugs with your new plants but it is much more manageable once you handle the over-winterers.
Surround your new squash plants with old planks. In the early morning dew, flip each board to see if any squash bugs are hiding under them. Stomp those bugs on the flipped board if you see any. Check the leaves daily. You've got this Pearl!
 
Pearl Sutton
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Amy: I'll keep that in mind, but the whole yard would have to be burned. I tried spacing them well away from each other. Didn't help. They fly.  :(
Thank you :D
 
Amy Gardener
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Yes, exactly! The squash bugs fly to the first squash plants that they sense. Those first squash come up in a 2' diameter hill: the decoy hill. Burn that little 2' diameter hill after they fly into the hill and get established. Maybe it's a New Mexico thing, so I'll read the replies to learn more about other regional strategies. Great topic Pearl!
 
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I've gardened in the PNW for over a decade and never ran into squash bugs but my first garden in Kentucky got overrun with all of the squash-based creepy crawlies and I lost plenty of plants.  Based on my reading, the decoy plants are critical (throw some cucumbers in there while you're at it), and apparently, many of the pests don't care for the funk that daikon gives the plants, so interplanting daikon radish (which will also help loosen your soil) should help quite a bit as well.    Best of luck!  I know I'm gonna need it too next year.
 
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My squashes were under lots of pest pressure at the end of the season in aug and sept. I handled the first generation pretty well, just kept an eye on the egg clusters under the leaves and crushed them. A few made it to the second generation and squash leaves were filling up the garden quickly. I could still detect from the look of leaves and killed a bunch. The adults now laid eggs low along the squash vines and the number of 3rd generation just exploded.

So next year I am going the pull the plants early, like early August. I started harvesting in early July and those are actually of the best quality. I don't feel like spending extra time and energy just to get a few more squashes. If there are lots of nymphs and eggs on the plants, I will burn them. I will also leave a few vines behind as decoy to attract and kill remaining bugs.
 
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This is a great presentation on insects and I think it is worth watching.  It will definitely give you some food for thought.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnNOvA3diDU

Basically the talk is about Brix readings on the leaves of your plants.  If they are too low, like below 12, then the plants are screaming for a bug attack.  If the readings are above 12 then the bugs have no interest in them and go elsewhere.  So get your plant leaf sugars up and away you go......
 
Pearl Sutton
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Marco Benito wrote:
Basically the talk is about Brix readings on the leaves of your plants.  If they are too low, like below 12, then the plants are screaming for a bug attack.  If the readings are above 12 then the bugs have no interest in them and go elsewhere.  So get your plant leaf sugars up and away you go......



Thank you!

The soil I'm growing in at this rental is not good, so I have low Brix readings. Thus all the mulch, to improve the soil.
Just gives the bugs a place to hide.
It'll resolve at some point, but hasn't yet, and it's frustrating.
 
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How dedicated are you to irradication? Got a shop vac?

Redhawk wrote: Just for others information, I think I have discovered a way to solve the squash bug problem by using a three step approach.
Be aware that it doesn't keep your current plants alive but it will allow you to get rid of the squash bugs for at least one growing season.

I pulled our dying zucchini plants while using an 8 gal wet/dry vacuum that I had added 2 gal. of water, 1.tsp dish soap and 1 gal. vinegar to, this way the bugs would fall into the liquid and drown and if that didn't do it, the vinegar would start the dissolving process.
I vacuumed up all the bugs I could see and I then went after the surrounding soil (mulch) as I had seen some of them retreating to their night time hideout.
Once I had all the bugs I could see sucked up, I pulled the plants up by the roots and sucked up the escapees that had gone into under ground hiding.
Next I raked up all the thick mulch (rotting straw from last years bale gardens) and bagged it, bugs and all, I tied these bags shut twice and hauled them off the property to dispose of them.
The next step was to spray the soil in and around that area with soapy water (5 drops of dawn per gal. of water) and as I did that, I had my trusty shop vac at the ready to suck up any bugs that might come up for air. ( I saturated the soil with the spray fairly well)
So far (1 week after the treatment) we have not found any more squash bugs on any of our remaining garden areas.

Redhawk From Permies!

 
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If I may suggest this video using pure, cold pressed NEEM OIL . It worked for my vegetable/ perennial gardens as well as my neighbor.



It's non toxic but  works  great on bad chewing insects in vegetable garden as well as on flowering perennials.
I start spraying mulch and soil as soon as the snow stars to melt and repeatedly  throughout the growing season because of where  live.

 
Pearl Sutton
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Ela La Salle wrote:If I may suggest this video using pure, cold pressed NEEM OIL . It worked for my vegetable/ perennial gardens as well as my neighbor.

https://youtu.be/-YtaCp8m8mw

It's non toxic but  works  great on bad chewing insects in vegetable garden as well as on flowering perennials.
I start spraying mulch and soil as soon as the snow stars to melt and repeatedly  throughout the growing season because of where  live.



Thank you, I'll check that. Wonder if I can use it on them now, to eliminate the overwintering? I have really good neem oil in the house.
 
Ela La Salle
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Pearl Sutton wrote:
Thank you, I'll check that. Wonder if I can use it on them now, to eliminate the overwintering? I have really good neem oil in the house.



I don't see why not. Can't "hurt" any more, than it already did But neem has to be pure, organic and cold pressed. Let us know later on ?
 
Pearl Sutton
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I checked the kind of neem oil I have, it is cold pressed virgin.
 
Every time you till, you lose 30% of your organic matter. But this tiny ad is durable:
paul's patreon stuff got his videos and podcasts running again!
https://permies.com/t/patreon
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