The squash bug is primarily a garden pest, but because it can overwinter in the walls of buildings, it can become a nuisance when it moves into the home seeking warmth and shelter as the weather turns cold. Once inside, the bugs can stay active throughout the winter.
The squash bug can be identified by several characteristics:
- It is just over 1/2 inch long.
- Its body is grayish-brown with brownish-orange stripes on edges and underside.
- It is winged with a squat, wide body.
- It is very slow moving.
- When crushed, it emits an odorous scent.
- Boxelder bugs – The two bugs can be differentiated by the red lines on the boxelder's body and wings. When at rest, the red lines on the folded wings form and upside-down V. It feeds on boxelder trees.
- Stink bugs – The stink bug is wider and rounder than the squash bug. It also gives off an odor when disturbed as well as when crushed, thus its name. The stink bug feeds on tomatoes and beans rather than squash.
Squash bugs are common in vegetable gardens, as they feed on pumpkins, squash (thus their name), and melons. They can lay up to 40 eggs at a time on the undersides of leaves and stems, and develop from egg to adult in 4-6 weeks.
How Squash Bugs Enter the Home
Like the boxelder and stink bugs, the squash bug will crawl into cracks and crevices in the structure, then move into the home from its between-wall harborage when the weather gets cold.
The bugs can also be brought in on firewood. To prevent this, don't store firewood in the home or near exterior walls. When the wood is brought in, use it as soon as possible so any insects in or on the wood don't end up in your home instead.
Damage and Control
The squash bug can cause damage in the garden to plants on which it feeds. The beetles feed on the plants by sucking out the juices, causing the leaves to lose water and nutrients, then they wither and brown. High populations can kill the plants or cause them to lose runners. The bugs may also feed directly on the fruit of the plant, damaging or killing the squash as well.
Control in the Garden
Garden control should take place during the spring and summer as the plants grow.
- Look for the bugs beneath debris and near buildings.
- Inspect plants each day for bugs, eggs, or signs of wilting.
- Experts also recommend the placing of boards around the garden, as the bugs will use these for shelter and breeding.
Any bugs or eggs found by any of these methods should be removed and destroyed. The plants can also be treated with an approved insecticide, following all label directions.
Because squash bugs can fly, they can migrate from other yards or gardens, so inspection and control must control through the summer.
Control in the Home
In the home, the bugs are more of an annoyance than a destructive force. They are also more likely to be seen singly rather than congregating in groups, and their slow movement makes them fairly easy control with a vacuum or broom.
To help prevent home invasion:
- Inspect the home or building exterior to find and seal all cracks and openings to prevent the bugs from entering
- Caulk around incoming pipes, utility wires, and cables;
- Repair window and door screens; ensure door and window seals are intact;
- In the fall, the exterior of the home on which squash bugs are found can be sprayed with an approved insecticide. Always read and follow label directions when using any pesticide.
Avoid smashing or crushing the bugs, however, as they can be quite odorous when crushed and can stain furniture, carpeting, walls, and drapes.