At the MUSC Urban Farm some of the beautiful squash plants flowered, and suddenly wilted. Many volunteers and vistors are facing the same problem in their home garden. They asked me what can be done about the squash vine borer.
First, we get to know our pests:
The adults are red and black moths. They lay eggs that look like flat brown circles at the base of the stem of your squash, pumpkin, melons, and cucumbers. The larvae, are inch long wrinkled, white catapillars with brown heads. These catapillars bore into the base of the stem and feed on the soft inside. They leave the plant when they mature and enter the soil at the base of the plant to lay more eggs.
What can we do??
1. Plant early, or plant late.
2. Cover your plants so the moths can't get to them.
3. Scout your cucurbits and sqoosh eggs you find.
4. If they are already inside, split the stem with a razor blade and use a small crochet needle to pull out the catapillar out. (There maybe more than one in a stem) Heap moist soil over all plant wounds until it heals.
5. Mound soil over the plants to the flowers. This will encourage rooting and decrease the amount of surface area that is vulnerable.
6. Plant radish inbetween to repel this pests.
7. Sprinkle wood ash around the base to repel the pests.
8. Plant butternut squash. They seem to be the most resistant.
9. Use crop covers or wrap nylon panty hose around the stem from the ground up to exclude the egg laying moths.
10. Inject BT or beneficial nemtodes into the stems using a 3 cc syringe placed 1.5 " above the soil line. Administer just after the first flowering. If catapillars are already inside than inject at 5" intervals along the stem. Repeat every few weeks.