Wilting Squash Vines…Well, That’s a Bad Sign!

I took a bunch of pictures of all the of vine plants this morning to take an early season tour through the Vertical Garden, and everything was looking pretty good, for the most part. Then I stepped out of the office for a couple minutes this afternoon to take a break from the new carpet & glue fumes, and noticed this…

**Sigh**. Seriously?!?! Looking at this wilty squash plant (It’s the ‘Sunshine’ Kabocha, in case you’re interested), there were 3 possible problems. 1 – the plant needs water. Nope, the soil was moist. Darn…that’s the easy fix! 2 – That pesky overwatered & damaged the roots problem. Well, theoretically possible, but we’ve been pretty careful recently, and it has been plenty hot to keep things from staying too wet very long. 3 – Squash Vine Borers have attacked. We have been scouting, but that’s not perfect.

So, I checked out the base of the plant for signs of invaders.

I realize it is kind of hard to see in this picture, but there are the few spots where you can see the orange goo oozing out. That is textbook squash vine borer damage. GRR! I was so hoping we wouldn’t have any this year due to the fresh soil… Oh well, I guess I can be overly optimistic at times if I want to be. Not that it’s a good way to keep plants healthy, but it’s fun while it lasts.

So, what do we do from here? Well, the catch with squash vine borer is that once it is at this point – inside the plants – there isn’t really much to do about it. Some people have good luck with surgery – going in with a knife and extracting the caterpillar, then mounding soil over the wound and hope it puts down some roots and keeps growing. Since our plantings were relatively thick to start with (more plants than we needed), I’m tempted to cut this plant out and spray any other plants, in hopes that we aren’t too late to prevent further loss.

For anyone that has never had the pleasure of dealing with squash vine borer, the only way to kill the caterpillars is to spray the base of the plants regularly with an insecticide in hopes of killing the caterpillars before they bore into the stems. Sevin or Permethrin would be conventional options. Spinosad would be an organic option.

I hope we’re not too late to catch most of the critters, because we have a LOT of squash planted in the garden this year!

About Rebecca

I'm a Horticulture Educator with Sedgwick County Extension, a branch of K-State Research and Extension, located in Wichita, KS. I teach about fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

Posted on June 25, 2012, in Insects Abound!, Plant Problems & Diseases and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Have you ever tried wrapping the vines in foil? It sounds like it’d end up being tedious for the true vining squash, but maybe not so difficult for ones that are more compact.

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