Monday, October 6, 2014

Squash Bugs

Most gardeners are familiar with this insect.  This is a Squash Bug, Anasa tristis.  It is a common garden visitor and, despite the fact that it’s an attractive and interesting creature, most people don’t welcome its presence. 

Maybe the Squash Bug is easier to recognize against a more common background.  This species feeds primarily on squash, pumpkins and gourds and can cause injury to both the vines and the fruits.  It is said that the common name also provides instructions on how to deal with the insect when found – “Squash bug”.

These are True Bugs with the distinctive tubular mouth parts used to penetrate the tough outer skin of the fruit and access the juices inside.  The vertical appendage descending from the center of the bug’s face is the mouth.

Wounds left by the feeding bugs also provide an opportunity for other insects to make use of the succulent plant juices.  The Allegheny Mound Ants don’t miss a chance to add something new to their diet.

Egg laying takes place over an extended period in the spring and early summer.  This results in groups of bugs with individuals of varying ages.  The immature nymphs will not gain their wings until their final molt to adulthood. 

Squash Bugs overwinter as adults.  It takes about four to six weeks for the Squash Bug to reach maturity, but cold temperatures slow the development process.  An early winter could catch the younger members of this group unprepared for the task of surviving until spring.

I recently harvested the remaining usable produce from the garden and moved the damaged items to the compost pile outside the garden area.  I moved no Squash Bugs, but by the next day, the compost pile was crawling with Squash Bugs, both adults and nymphs.  The Squash Bug population has been increasing over the past couple of years, so I’ll probably forego planting squash, gourds and pumpkins next year.  The bugs will have nothing to eat here and will fly off in search of a suitable place to lay eggs.  That will effectively break the cycle and I can go back to vine crops the following year.  

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