Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Squash Vine Borers Attack!

While at the garden this morning, I happened to notice that the vine on my largest squash plant (the volunteer from the compost heap) looked more like swiss cheese than a healthy plant stem. The damage was so bad I was actually surprised the plant appeared as healthy as it did with large green leaves, five or six blossoms, and plenty of buds. Right away I knew the culprit: the squash vine borer. Based on a couple of things I've read, I got to work opening up the vine using a combination of my thumb nail and some clippers (probably not the best tools) to hunt down the pest. I found lots of little borers (tiny white grubs) and some other bugs and a sawdust like substance running down the damaged area. I dug out a lot of junk, took the hose and cleaned away the mess, and hoped for the best.

I figured I better take a look at the other plants too. Sure enough, the acorn squash was almost destroyed. I yanked it out and just threw it in the garbage. The stem was holding on by a thread.

One of the crookneck squashes had a big hole in the vine but it wasn't too bad. I opened up the stem and dug out some similar contents. Then I hit the jackpot: a big, inch long, white worm. This must be it! The dreaded vine borer is a big, white, grub-like thing. It tunnels through the vine, munching all the way until the plant's connection to the rootsystem is severed.

I went back to the big plant, determined to find a big, healthy borer further up the vine. I dug around some more and came up with a half inch long borer. Could that be it? I probed a bit longer but didn't find anything else.

Hopefully the plants recover enough to produce a couple fruits. Now that I know what I'm looking for, I'll be more diligent about monitoring them. I'm certain that the borers will eventually win. There were too many babies in the large plant to safely assume I got them all. Also, every other squash plant in the garden has died at this point and I'm imagining they all succumb to the hungry borers.

I know. This is kinda gross. I'm sitting here feeling a little creepy crawly.

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