Squash Vine Borer Damage
I came out to the garden this morning to find one of my squash plants wilting. From past experience, I new that this was not due to a lack of water. Besides, we are having one of the rainiest summers on record. The culprit, SQUASH VINE BORERS. ugh!!!
These moths primarily attack squash, zucchini, pumpkins, and guards, (hallow stemmed cucurbits) with less likelihood of attacking cucumbers and melons. They lay eggs which produce a caterpillar larva that bores into the main stem of the plant. Inside, they feed off the plant, causing wilting at first, but then the eventual demise of the plant. Once these nasty things have done their damage, they crawl back out of the plant and overwinter in the soil (where they pupate), only to return the next year and start the cycle all over again.
If your garden is attacked, then go on the defensive. Remove the infected plants, slit open the stem, find the borer(s), and destroy, thus breaking the cycle. (I do not compost infected plants, just in case I miss a borer). Plant solid stem vines or rotate out hallow stemmed vines to a different area of the garden where they have not been grown for a few years. If you do grow hollow stem vines then plant in succession, every two to three weak's, harvesting what you can before removing the damaged plants. When plants first sprout, you can try to protect the stem/base with foil or nylon stockings, floating row covers or some other type of barrier. Encourage additional rooting at various points along vining plants by covering with soil. By doing so, you may be able to cut off the infected part of the plant, saving the remaining healthy stems. Tilling the soil in the fall, after removing damaged plants and/or early spring may help to kill the borer cocoons.