One of the biggest enemies of squash, zucchini, and pumpkin is the squash vine borer. This nasty little pest will destroy a plant in no time if left alone. If your plants look fine one day then begin to wilt the next, it could be squash vine borer.
Look around the base of your squash plants for any signs of squash vine borers. You will notice a hole in the vine, near the soil line, that has an orange colored frass that resembles sawdust. If you find this there is a good chance the plant is infested by a squash vine borer.
If the plant is not too heavily damaged you may be able to save it. Generally, squash vine borer damage happens quickly, and the plant is too far gone to salvage. It is might be worth it to try and save the plant if you catch the critter early.
How To Remove A Squash Vine Borer
The first thing you need to do is locate the squash vine borer. One of the best ways to do this is at night with a flashlight. The light will shine through the hollow vines of the plant, making it easy to spot the exact location of the caterpillar.
Once the squash vine borer is located, use a knife or razor blade and carefully cut a slit lengthwise in the vine. Gently open the vine up to expose the squash vine borer.
Use the knife and remove the squash vine borer from the vine of the plant. I use the knife to kill the caterpillar (gruesome, I know but we need to get rid of this guy).
Once the squash vine borer is removed and dead, pour a cup of clean, fresh water over the wound. Clean the area out well, removing the orange frass and any other debris that might be in the affected area.
Once the area is cleaned, scoop some nutrient-rich compost or soil over the wound – covering it completely. Make sure to thoroughly water the plant right after the surgery, and each day after.
Most of the time the squash vine borer hole is near the soil line, but if it is higher up the vine you can follow the same steps as above. Once the wound is cleaned, try wrapping the area snugly with an strip of old panty hose to cover the wound.
Another method for removing this pest is to stick it with a toothpick. Once the squash vine borer is located using the flashlight, take a toothpick and stick through the hollow vine and also though the squash vine borer. This will kill the caterpillar without having to slice open the vine. Leave the toothpick in place, and cover the wound with soil the same as the above method.
Trying to salvage a squash, or squash family plant, after a squash vine borer infestation is not a complete science. It is mostly trial and error mixed with a lot of luck. These methods are not guaranteed, but are worth a shot. The key is catching the squash vine borer as soon as possible. How have you dealt with squash vine borers? Please share any tricks or tips you may have for removing these pests.