Don’t let squash vine borer trick you

  • Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Watch out for those insects that suck juice out of plants and animals. Fleas, chinch bugs, mites, lace bugs, aphids, white flies and scale have been real bad this spring with the dry weather. Mosquitoes anyone? Powdery mildew (a fungus) has been very bad on the new growth of crepe myrtles, dogwoods, roses and verbena. Twig borers have been active on magnolias, oaks and dogwoods. The grilling season will bring flies to the party. Rats, mice and other varmints including roaches will be looking for a cool house or crawl space to call home.

With all the above prevention or protection is a lot easier than curative action. Think of sunburn and applying sunscreen. It is a lot quicker and easier to apply sunscreen than to have a painful burn that may have long term expensive consequences. First you have discomfort, then visits to dermatologist, then moles to remove, then possible cancer, then…

If you grow squash, look around the plants and see if there is any sawdust material. Also, cut lengthwise along the vine and see if there is a white grub-like worm in your squash vine. Inside the vine that you have cut, you should also see the same sawdust. Look for any holes along the stem of the plant as well. If you see any of these signs, you have squash vine borer.

At this point there is not a lot you can do other than try to bury the vine and hope it re-roots at a node, so water and nutrients can be translocated to this point directly from the roots of the plant.

Squash vine borer is a tricky kind of guy. The female adult flies around in April and May and deposits eggs on the vines. The moth (the adult) flies similar to a dragonfly and look like a metallic green wasp. The eggs then hatch and the white larva (the guy that does the damage) bores into the stem and begins to feed. By feeding inside the stem, they cut off the ability for the plant to move water and nutrients through the stem. This is what makes it wilt and die so fast. After the larvae feed on the plant for four to five weeks, they crawl out of the stems and pupate. They overwinter as pupae until next spring when they become adults, and the cycle continues.

The control of this borer should be a multi-faceted approach.

Remove the infected vines, hopefully along with the larvae.

Regularly till your garden throughout the fall and winter to destroy over-wintering cocoons (i.e. pupae).

Plant very early spring to get ahead of their life cycle.

Keep your eye out for the moth and remove eggs as you see them appear.

During April and May of next year (the egg laying period), consider using an insecticide that contains methoxychlor (DMDT, Metox).

Always read, understand and follow product label. The product label is a federal law.


Bill Lamson-Scribner can be reached during the week at Possum’s Landscape and Pest Control Supply. Possum’s has three locations includingone at 481 Long Point Rd. in Mount Pleasant (971-9601). Bring your questions to a Possum’s location, or visit us at http://www.possumsupply.com. You can also call in your questions to “The Garden Clinic,” Saturdays from noon to 1 p.m. on 1250 WTMA. The Horticulture Hotline is available 24 / 7 at possumsupply.com.

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