Getting Rid of Squash Vine Borers

by emily on July 25, 2011

As you begin learning how to start a vegetable garden, you eventually begin to realize that squash vine borers are the bane of the squash gardener’s existence. In most of the U.S. they can decimate a winter squash plant in just a few days. In the Southern part of the States, they attack not only winter squash but summer squash – such as zucchini – as well.

(This post is part of this week’s Monday Mania at the Healthy Home Economist website.)

About a month ago, I lost two of my three zucchini plants to these innocent-looking white worms that hide inside the squash stem and suck all its juices out.

Squash bine borer to the left – look for black spot at the end of its nose.

Determined not to lose the third plant – which still looked healthy- I began a desperate search online as to how to keep the buggers away from my last plant.

Squash vine borer control

In the meantime, I found an article that said that borage repels squash bugs. Interesting, I thought, because the last existing plant just happened to be sandwiched between two borage plants, and I had never seen any squash bugs on it (I had had to pick a bunch off the other two plants).

Then I got to thinking: if borage repels the moth that lays the tomato hornworm eggs – that’s why the borage were there, as companions to a couple of tomatoes – would it possibly repel other kinds of moths? Say, for example, the squash vine borer moth?

By then, I had unwittingly pruned the borage, thus killing them, and shortly thereafter the squash bugs began to appear on the remaining zucchini.

But borage promised to be a good all-around pest repellent, and I will try planting it specifically near my zucchini next summer.

I continued looking specifically for a borer remedy, and found a webpage that said to spray the base of the plant weekly with an insecticide. A soap spray would do just fine to kill off any eggs that may have been laid, the author said, so I got busy.

Since I had a lot of garlic-pepper spray on hand, I began using that. I began the weekly spraying over a month ago, hitting the soil around the base of the plant as well as the stem, and the plant is going nuts.

More ideas on controlling squash vine borers

If you love growing winter squash, but can’t stand losing it to the borers, the easiest solution is to grow butternut squash. Its stem is too thin for the borer to get into and hide.

Another solution is to keep a close eye on the vine. As it takes off in several directions, push the new vines down to the ground and bury them with either soil or mulch. The vines will take root there, and if a borer gets into another part of the vine, it won’t kill the part you have rooted.

Some people simply let nature be nature, and plan on losing their summer squash at some point. They are able to reap some harvest from the first plants, then a few weeks after planting the first squash crop they plant a second. Often, by then the squash vine borers aren’t nearly as active as they were at the beginning of the squash growing season, and the plants remain intact for the rest of the summer.

Don’t let squash vine borers get you down! Try whatever of the above ideas fit your situation, and you’ll have squash coming out your ears come fall. :)  Click here for more tips and tricks to a more successful garden, including pest remedies, building a no-cost raised bed, extending your harvest…fifty-seven great ideas in all!


ariana | a place in the pattern July 25, 2011 at 6:39 pm

Hey Emily,
I have always wanted to get into some serious gardening, unfortunately we can only have a few house plants since we live in an apartment. But this a great tip to look out for. I myself bypass a lot of things that happen in our plants mainly because I’m not aware of it happening or I simply don’t know what to do about it. Great post.

emily July 26, 2011 at 5:45 am


Thanks for visiting! I read a book once that explained how to grow garden vegetables indoors with lights. Having spent yrs living in an apt. myself, I realize that space is of the essence in such living quarters, but one tomato plant and/or one pepper plant and a handful of small pots of lettuce really wouldn’t take up much room. And you would never have any pest issues. ;)

Just a thought. :)

Marcee July 26, 2011 at 2:54 pm

I too have had a battle and lost with vine borers. they have attacked my sweet meat squash, 2 plants died. One is still thriving. Although I do go out and kill a few squash bugs every day and scrape off the eggs. I’ve also heard you can put a section of panty hose on the base of the plant and that will help (with the borers). I was able to do that to a few of my plants but the sweet meat got to big to fast to do that. I do have borage in my yard but it is planted about 25 feet away. I will DEFINATELY plant them with my squash next year. I’m going to go bury some of my squash vines this afternoon, so they will take root, and hopefully I will win part of the war against these spawn of Satan!!

emily July 26, 2011 at 4:25 pm

LOL, spawn of Satan, I love it! :)

Come back next yr and tell me if the borage worked with the zucchini. I am going to experiment: spray one, let the other two be surrounded by borage, and see what happens.

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