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Squash Vine Borer

Squash vine borer, Melittia satyriniformis, is a significant pest of squash and pumpkin and a lesser pest of cucurbits and melons. The squash borer usually occurs in low numbers although their presence is usually not noticed until after damage is done.

Squash Vine Borer

Squash Vine Borer

Squash vine borer, Melitta curcurbitae, is a common clearwing moth in home gardens in Newyork. It is a serious pest of vine crops, commonly attacking summer squash, winter squash, and pumpkins. Cucumbers and melons are less frequently affected. In home gardens, entire crops may be lost in a year of high borer populations.

The adult borer resembles a wasp. It is about 1/2 inch long with an orange abdomen with black dots . The first pair of wings is metallic green while the back pair of wings is clear, although that may be hard to see as the wings are folded behind them when they at rest. Eggs are flat, brown, and about 1/25 inch long. The larvae are white or cream-colored with brown heads, growing to almost an inch in length.

Life cycle:Beginning in late June or early July, squash vine borer adults emerge from cocoons in the ground. Squash vine borer adults are good fliers for moths and resemble wasps in flight. These moths are unusual because they fly during the day while nearly all other moths fly at night.

Soon after emerging, squash vine borers lay eggs singly at the base of susceptible plants. Approximately one week after they are laid, the eggs hatch and the resulting larvae bore into stems to feed. The larvae feed through the center of the stems, blocking the flow of water to the rest of the plant. The larvae feed for four to six weeks, then exit the stems and burrow about one to two inches into the soil to pupate. They remain there until the following summer. There is one generation per year.

Damage:Often the first symptom of a borer attack is wilting of affected plants. Wilting may occur only in strong sun at first , but if the problem is left unchecked, the plants eventually collapse and die. Closer observation of a wilting plant often reveals holes near the base of the plant filled with moist greenish or orange sawdust-like material called frass.Over time, the base may become mushy or rot away altogether. Several borer larvae may attack a single plant.

The squash vine borer injures plants by tunneling through their stem, which interferes with nutrient transfer in the plant. Borer feeding weakens plants providing the opportunity for secondary infection. Plants damaged by the squash vine borer will wilt. Examination often reveals shiny green-to yellow colored frass within the stem. Often frass will protrude from any damaged areas of the stem. If vine senescence occurs early, the borer may tunnel into the fruit.

Squash Vine Borer Damage

Squash Vine Borer Damage

Control:Not all fields will have problems with squash vine borer. Fields that have been attacked in the past are most likely to have squash vine borer problems in the future.When infestations of squash borer are caught early it is often possible to save the plant. Where squash borer entry holes are detected, split the vine lengthwise and remove any observed borers. Entry holes are frequently just above where the vine breaks the soil. Use caution not to split any farther than is necessary to remove the insects. After careful inspection and removal of insects, place a few centimeters of moist soil over the split vine.

Proper cultural control may kill many overwintering pupae reducing the following year’s population. Soil should be disked after harvest then plowed the following spring. This combination produces mortality from both the cold and from difficulties escaping from the soil. Another cultural control is to destroy vines after harvest. This prevents borers still in the larval stage from completing their development.As with all boring insects, sprays need to be timed to contact the insects before they bore into the plant. For this reason sprays on a weekly basis are NOT recommended.

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