There are many insects that look quite a bit alike and for the majority of us that do not spend a good portion of our time investigating, it can be hard to distinguish a good bug from a bad one. This bug, a squash bug ( Anasta tristis) falls into that category. It looks like another bug that is actually an ally in the garden, but unfortunately this one isn’t
This bug is part of the bug family that are leaf-footed, which basically means that a part of their hind legs look like they have been flattened and resemble broken, dried leaves. They are a medium sized insect; about 3/8″ and bigger. Their color is dark to light brown, sometimes with hints of white. The antennae looks as if it is coming out of holders from the front of the bugs head and they have bands of orange. If the squash bug feels threatened it will exude a foul smelling liquid, like what a stink bug does, which is another look-alike.
The squash bug, like it’s name suggests, enjoys dining on cucumber, melon, pumpkin, squash and other gourd crops. Pictured is an adult squash bug, but it is the nymphs ( immature squash bugs) that do the most damage to our gardens. They attack the plants by sucking out the plants juices and leaving the foliage to wilt, blacken and then dry out.
Methods for controlling this garden pest are pretty simple. Since the squash bug needs shelter to survive frosts so one huge help is garden tidiness. After harvesting make sure to remove all plant debris from your garden and either compost or burn it. During the season you can keep a close eye and see if the damage is becoming worse or has tapered off. Sometimes natural predators will do the controlling for you and you won’t need to do anything. If this is not the case and you need something with a little more punch, there are a lot of insecticidal soaps and oils available to homeowners now. These are convenient to use because they are safe to use around people and pets, easier on natural predators, but they still do a great job at controlling the bugs that you do not want. Of course, follow the label instructions closely! Misuse can lead to damaging your plants instead of helping them. As with anything, do a test application before you treat the whole crop.
Carr, Anna. Rodale’s Color Handbook Of Garden Insects. Rodale Press, Inc. 1979. Pg. 90
National Audubon Society Field Guide To North American Insects And Spiders. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Chanticleer Press, Inc. 1980. Pp. 103, 481, 482