I had summer squash for breakfast this morning.
After a more than two-year decimation from squash bugs, I have won. It was a bit like the revolutionary war, but in the end the tattered minute mom triumphed.
At the end of our first glorious summer of gardening, filled with squashy goodness, I failed to recognize the abrupt and wilting end of our abundance, the signs of evil to come. The following year I was unaware about what was happening until it was too late. Last year, though I had good intentions, I was not aggressive enough and my garden was generally so disordered I’m not sure it would have mattered.
This year I started checking for squash bugs as soon as the plants sprouted. I checked every few days under each leaf. When the inevitable day came that I found (not one, but) two of the little MFs squash bugs, I stepped up my vigilance. I also mixed up some spray (we call it Squash Bug Squish) similar to #1 on this site, because our family tries to avoid using pesticides - especially on our food. Every day I killed any squash bug I found either by hand or by spray. I also sprayed the plant for repellent. When the vines were blooming, and I’d not seen a squash bug for a week I celebrated success.
A dangerous error.
I didn’t think to check the volunteer squash that sprouted far in the back of my compost pile. I didn’t realize until it was a shriveled mass of squash bug squalor that it would, of course, be hosting a great orgy of the summer-fun-killers, harboring their shiny brown masses of future horny life-suckers.
So we rallied and the four of us took turns on patrol, usually with me at the lead and allowing the troops (mostly two boys) to do the dirty work. The smallest soldier took interest but was misinformed and kept looking for these weapons of mass destruction on the giant sunflowers she planted instead of the various squash plants. We destroyed several waves of enemies, often in their grey (alien-ish, as one son would say) immature forms. Though a few did manage to slip through our defenses and reach their full growth. I’m still watchful for cells of them to hatch in case they connected with one another outside of my intelligence net – which is extensive, as we carefully avoid spraying predator bugs during our sweeps.
So, in cautious celebration I picked the barely-ripe, tender yellow vegetable this morning after lifting the heavy stem of each vine to check underneath for sleeper cells. I sauteed it in this and tasted (fresh) victory.
And then, while looking for a link for this post, I read that squash bugs also attack tomato plants. So I’ve gotta get back outside.