Fig. 3 Frass (arrow) and pumpkin stem damaged by borers.

Fig. 3 Frass (arrow) and pumpkin stem damaged by borers.

Updated: September 2, 2021
By Gerald (Jerry) Brust

Watch Your Pumpkins and Squash for Squash Vine Borer

I have gotten several emails and calls from growers in different areas of the state reporting they are seeing the beginnings of squash vine borer problems in their pumpkins or squash crops. IF you rotated at least 1/2 mile from your squash/pumpkin fields of last year you should be OK, however, I know some growers either cannot rotate or they cannot rotate very far from last year’s crop.

Squash vine borer adults, Melittia cucurbitae, are moths that look like wasps. They are about ½ inch long with an orange abdomen and black dots (fig. 1). These moths are day flyers and can easily be spotted flitting about a squash or pumpkin field. The adults emerge in mid or late June in our area. Adults lay most of their eggs in the first 12-15 inches of the stem. Pumpkins, zucchini, and summer, and the first symptom of a borer attack is the wilting of plants, which usually occurs in July. The wilting may occur at first only when in direct sun, but the plants will eventually die. At the base of the plant, you can find greenish-yellow sawdust-like material (frass) and a scarred swollen stem (fig. 3).

Squash vine borers can be difficult to manage once larvae are in the stem, as it is too late to do much. When squash vines begin to run or you see adults you can treat the base of the stem (the first 15-18 inches of stem) with a pyrethroid insecticide (or any other recommended pesticide in the Mid-Atlantic Vegetable recommendation guide) every 7-10 days, over the next 21-30 days. You could also use Bt insecticide (it is OK but not great) or Entrust which is better and both are OMRI approved.

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This article appears on July 15, 2021, Volume 12, Issue 4 of the Vegetable and Fruit News

Vegetable and Fruit News, July 2021, Vol. 12, Issue 4

Vegetable and Fruit News is a statewide publication for the commercial vegetable and fruit industries and is published monthly during the growing season (April through October). Subscribers will receive an email with the latest edition.