Squash bug on a pumpkin leaf

Squash bug on a winter squash leaf in my Arkansas garden

Human child next to infected patch of winter squash

Child next to infected patch of winter squash

My winter squash plants are being attacked!

My winter squash plants are being attacked!

Squash bug nymphs on on dead leaf

Squash bug nymphs on dead leaf

Squash bug nymphs

Squash bug nymphs

Squash bug nymph looking for refuge on a squash leaf

Squash bug nymph looking for refuge on a squash leaf

squash-bug-nymph-on-winter-squash-leaf-zoomed

Soft, white, squash bug nymph

Squash bug eggs on underside of winter squash leaf

Squash bug eggs on underside of winter squash leaf

Squash bug eggs

Squash bug eggs

Squash bug adult

Squash bug adult

Squash bug adult

Squash bug adult

How to Kill Squash Bugs Organically

The video below shows an organic way to kill squash bugs and cucumber beetles, using dish soap. It’s amazing how fast it works! [ Credit: georgem21275 ]

I tried this and it works!  Fast!  I just used dish soap mixed with water and poured it over a gathering of squash bugs and they were all paralyzed within seconds.  It was just a little soap and mostly water, shaken up.

How does dish soap kill bugs?

The soap suffocates them.  These insects breath through their outer covering and not through their mouth.  Air enters the insect’s body through valve-like openings in the exoskeleton.  [ source ] A soapy liquid covering their body clogs up these openings, preventing Oxygen from entering their bodies.

Other Common Squash Pests

The video below shows several of the common insect pests on squash plants. [ Credit: NMSU ]

Conclusion

You can combat squash bugs with a small amount of cheap dishwashing liquid and water, which is also fairly harmless to our environment.



51 Comments

  1. Cindi says:

    THANK YOU – I hate these bugs…they are eating everything!

  2. Cindi says:

    I went outside after watching this and sprayed a couple of beetles. They died instantly. Thank you! A little Dawn and some water did the trick. Hope the plants are OK.

  3. Earl says:

    I’m glad it worked for you. I never saw plant damage from soap. But if you get concerned about it, you could wash them off by spraying some clean water over the plants to remove the soap. I hope your garden produces good fruit.

  4. Judy says:

    Thank YOU so much for the advise… Seven Dust just wasnt killing them and It was getting quite expensive. THANKS again, appreciate it.

  5. Earl says:

    Thanks for your feedback. :-)

  6. Teri says:

    Thank you very much for this info. I have tried Sevendust (powder and spray) and it has not worked. I have thousands of squash bugs this year. It is amazing how many there are. I am going to try dishsoap right now.
    Thanks again!!

  7. ed bass says:

    Does the black red headed beatle attack evergreen shrubs?

  8. Earl says:

    I do not know about that. Sorry.

  9. Duty says:

    SQUEEEELLL! Oh my gosh, thank you! I never thought of dish soap. But that is kinda funny since we used dish soap, bleach water and a super soaker to kill bag worms one year. Thank you again.

  10. Hilda says:

    Thanks so much for your great blog!! I live in Dallas, Tx and these are the bugs that have been killing my Zucchini squash plants and now I have a way to kill them without harming my plants and/or other living things around my veggie garden…thanks so much, I can’t wait to try this!! Question: I have a Fels-Naftha soap bar, will this work or can only soap dish work?

  11. Earl says:

    Thank you for your kind comments. I am sorry, I do not know about anything about that kind of soap. However, I would assume that any soapy water would work. You could try a little and see. It does not take long to confirm if it works.

  12. Linda says:

    Just rained here. Does it need to be applied to a dry leaf or will it being wet still work? Can’t wait to see if this works. If so, my back yard neighbor will thank you also as these bugs are eating his squash.

  13. Earl says:

    Apply the soap to the bugs, not the leaves.

  14. Amy says:

    Thanks for the tip on the soap. I have squash bugs going after my zucchini and butternut squash plants. Do you have to wait for the eggs to hatch or can you spray the eggs and take care of them? Can we still harvest and eat the squash after we control the bugs? Thanks for your help!

  15. Earl says:

    I don’t know if the soap water will kill the unhatched bugs still in the eggs. Yes, you can eat the squash after spraying with soapy water. You’re just cleaning your food before you eat it… but I would be sure to rinse the squash off with clean water because soap does not taste good. :-)

  16. wm. grant says:

    3m spary glue on bugs and eggs or finger nail polish on eggs, they will not hatch

  17. Monica says:

    Amazing! After spending quite a bit of money trying to find something to control these things, and 2 hours every other day picking them and their eggs, I had to try Dawn-water right away. And they started dying. Right before my eyes! It was one of the most gratifying garden experiences I’ve had this year (tomatoes aren’t ripe yet… ). Thank you so much for this tip. The cucumber beetles don’t seem to mind the soapy water, but they respond quite well to other things. I also read somewhere to use duct tape to remove the eggs from the leaves, going to try that as well.

  18. jimme greenthumb says:

    this is incredible.. i mean they die right before your eyes….

  19. jimme greenthumb says:

    this reaaly works

  20. Di says:

    We picked some bugs and sprayed them with this solution and it worked! Thank you! I have a question, I sprayed the mix on the leaves -as a preventive measure, but I am concerned if it will damage the plant. What do you recommend?

  21. Earl says:

    I am glad it worked for you. The pestilence level sure is going up, just as the bible predicted. “All these are the beginning of sorrows.” Matthew 24:8

    Personally, I would not spray soapy water on leaves that have no bugs. Leaves allow a plant to take in CO2 through little holes called stomata. The stomata should be able to open. I would not spray with soapy water unless the bugs are present, because the soapy water could interfere with the plant’s ability to breathe in CO2. Soapy water kills bugs only if the bug is covered with it anyway. So for best results, spray the bugs directly and not the leaves. After the bugs are dead, you can spray off your plants with water if you want to make sure the stomata are not plugged up.

  22. Rosemary says:

    After spending a lot of money on organic squash bug killers, I am going out and try this. My spaghetti squash and zucchini are loaded. thank you

  23. Jenn says:

    Fels-Naptha will work.. about 1/3 of the bar and 1 QT of water…

    For repelling use 1 clove of garlic, 1 small onion, 1 haberneo and 1 jalepano in 1 qt of water.. and let steep 1 hour.. strain and ad ONE DROP of dishwashing liquid.. spray every few days to stop them from eating it and coming back.

  24. Patti Simmons says:

    I am SO glad I found this site!I’ve been using the dishsoap and water for awhile and it works. I’ve also used the Fels naptha and that works great as well. It DOES kill cucumber beetles it just takes a little longer. My husband and I have had an all out battle with all the curcubid beetles this year BUT I think we might be winning the war! Only saw 1 spotted cuke beetle and so far, no striped ones. Yup, we had them BOTH plus the squash beetles. No fun here.
    Now we have woodchucks SO we grew ghost peppers and used them around everything EXCEPT the tomatoes. Think this might be working too!

  25. Dina says:

    Thank you so much for the soap tip for squash bugs! I wish I knew it a month ago. I could spray them with my dogs right there and not worry about them getting ill from chemicals! I will make sure I stay on top of them next year for sure. Does the soap trick work for any other garden pests?

  26. Debra C says:

    They look like the bugs that come into our houses when the cold weather sets in. We’ve never had them before, but a few years ago they’ve been rampant around the states here.
    Everyone calls them stink bugs. Not sure if they are the same but sure does look like them … so I will try the soap detergent and see if it works. People out here don’t know how to get rid of them .

  27. smdruid says:

    Wow….great site…Neem did nothing…and Seven doesn’t seem to work anymore either….I’ve been farming for 3 decades and have never seen such a lousy crop of bugs…I won’t if they winter over in the soil.

  28. joy says:

    Unbelievable! It works, no poison. Thank you so much. In Texas.

  29. joy says:

    And yes I will go back out in a while and spray the leaves off with clean water.

  30. Holly says:

    It worked! Thank you!

  31. barb says:

    Looking under each leaf can be rather grueling, esp. in the heat….but I hopefully killed them for the time being…but you wonder if you miss one leaf..what happens? Guess you have to be on squash bug patrol all summer.

  32. Earl says:

    Bug patrol! :-) That’s what I call it, too. This year my squash plants got taken out early by some grub-like creature that bore a hole into the stem of the plants. The soap water trick does not work on patching up a hole in the stems of the plants.

    My okra plants have been attacked this year with ants and aphids. The soap water works well on them without the soap water hurting the plants. I have not rinsed off the soap water each time, but the okra leaves do not look damaged. The okra plants grow much better when the ants and aphids are gone.

    I hope your plants make food for you.

  33. Christina Arredondo says:

    THANK YOU SSSSSOOOOOO much …..I have had these for years but this year man oh man they are horrible!!!! Mission impossible starts in the am!!!!

  34. Sheila Moss says:

    Where have I been? After several seasons of losing my plants early, due to these voracious squash bugs, I am happy to know that I will come out the winner. It was so much fun watching them die realizing that my zucchini will now survive. This is the best tip I have had in a long time. I may now be able to share my zucchini with the neighbors.

  35. Kat says:

    Thanks for the tip. I just went our a killed hundreds of squash bugs using all natural dish soap!!!! It worked!!!

  36. Ranger says:

    Thanks Earl,our seasons about over here in wesrern Pa but I’ll have the upper hand next year.I’ve allwaysed used 7dust but was concerened about my good bugs I think about trying this out on the aspargus bettles next season Happy gardening remember no farmers no food

  37. L. Rodriguez says:

    I love squash and grow every year. This year I didn’t plant as much as I have never been able to control squash bugs I had tried many recommendations from garden shows to local growers without success I had just pulled my squash plant yesterday due to bug infestation. So I tried soapy water on dead plant with squash bugs everywhere. I could not believe how well it worked and what joy it gave me to watch them die!! Thank you sooo much!! Will be growing more squash!!

  38. Larry says:

    Great article. Thanks so much. This my first time ever planting squash. I have read on some other sites that alchohol kills them and they “sleep” overnight under leaves at the base of plants. Combining all three, is it conceivable if alchohol and soap (anti-bacterial soap?) sprayed or laid down on the soil at the base of the plants can kill many at once?

    Thanks again. Great stuff! Glad you showed the vid, because I wouldn’t have believed it otherwise. It was just to simple a solution.

    Cheers.

  39. jane apgood says:

    last year i lost almost everything, i saw one of the first pumpkin bugs you should just yesterday and went right out and sprayed almost a half bottle, i was so mad, you’re not getting them THIS year! i have never tried this before and hope i can spray and keep them away , can you just spray on a regular basis to stop and y coming, or only if you see them ?

  40. Earl says:

    There might be little or no benefit to spraying your plants when the pests are not visible. I spray the soap water only when the pests are visible and I aim at the insects and not the leaves. I have not seen any damage to the plants after spraying them, but the pestilence dies. The spray kills them by covering their body with a soapy film, preventing them from breathing. They suffocate and hopefully your plants live and bear much fruit.

  41. KEC says:

    our zucchini plants are infested with these whitish bugs. We’ve gotten yellow squash, cucumbers, peppers – no zucchini! They seem to only like those plants? Used the soapy spray & I think it worked! Back out tomorrow hopefully to get the rest!

  42. HCoen says:

    I just noticed my cacti are covered in squash bugs this morning.
    I sprayed them just now, and most are dead others are dying.
    I had done this in the past with my squash and it didn’t work as well as it did today.
    Thankful for something safe for animals and kiddos that will get rid of those nasty things!

  43. VHerrera says:

    Thanks for this great tip! It worked perfectly. I did a treatment this evening and I’ll go back tomorrow and check if any more show up.

  44. Don says:

    How much dish soap per gallon of water?

  45. Krista says:

    Watched them die!!! I’m sure there are millions more tho. Thanks!!

  46. laura says:

    Thank you for this great advice. I was on my way to dig up and toss my garden this morning. Last ditch effort I googled and found this site. I had used this technique before but had poor results however I sprayed the plant and not the bugs. With so many positive comments I had to try again. I nearly threw up yesterday when I pulled back a plant and there were hundreds of bugs in all stages. I just was giving up. My husband and I both went out and every bug was killed so fast .The older black ones take a bit longer but they do die as well. They just freeze in place.They tried to get away so having my husband on the opposite side was helpful because some made it to the grass and were hard to see and they went down the sides of the bricks that border the garden. Every where we saw them they all died. God bless you and this site. I will be following you from now on.

  47. debbie says:

    Yeah! I had the red eggs, and both types of bugs. I noticed earlier this summer that if I just picked up those large brown square bugs and dumped them in a bowl of water they died immediately. But now there are tons and squirting that soapy water, using duct tape to remove the eggs, was as one reader, said, a very satisfying experience. Usually you do something in your garden and pray the next day they are gone or the problem resolved. It’s wonderful to see something taken care of immediately. And, the monsoon this afternoon should rinse out the plant and I’ll try it again tomorrow. From Edgewood, NM, thanks

  48. Sherry says:

    Can you please tell me what ratio of dishwashing soap and water to mix? Thank you!!

  49. Alex says:

    Hi,
    In my case there are probably at least. 60 or 70 because I have a massive garden and didn’t see them until it was too late. Any advice?
    Thank you,
    Alex

  50. Sandra says:

    I add mouthwash to dish soap and water. I think I read it years ago in Mother Earth News

  51. Vance says:

    I have tried EVERY remedy imaginable for killing or repelling (adult) squash bugs, and NONE of them has ever worked. I am convinced that all of the home remedies out there are a waste of time.

    Checking each vine daily, and physically removing (and smashing) the bugs and eggs by hand (or duct tape) DOES help, but you never find them all, and this becomes very time-consuming as the plants get larger. And if you ever have to skip checking for a day or two, you are likely to find your plants dead when you return. Picking the bugs off by hand has never been a good solution for me.

    Having said that, I HAVE found a way to get plenty of squash. The ONLY thing that has worked for me is to plant 2 or 3 times more squash plants than I really want. Yes, the squash bugs WILL still eventually kill them all, but not all at once. So, if you plant extra plants, AND check for bugs as often as you can, you can probably get all of the squash that you want. For me, that means planting 15 plants or so, instead of the 5 or 6 plants that I REALLY want.

    To save space (since I don’t really WANT to plan 15 squash plants!), I plant them between my sweet corn rows, and the squash plants seem to like that just fine. I think they actually do a little better there, than in the full Kansas sun.

    For those that are interested, here are the many failed squash bug remedies that I have tried over the years.
    • I have tried spraying the plants regularly with Sevin (and every other pesticide).
    Sevin and other over-the-counter pesticides are totally ineffective against the adult squash bug. But I still tried. I used liquid spray on top AND undersides of leaves, and generously on the main stalk. I used Sevin dust to cover the ground around the plants. It just didn’t help.
    • I have tried spraying the bugs with a mixture of dish soap and water.
    This did not bother the bugs at all.
    • I have tried placing boards around the base of the plants, as I have read that the bugs will hide there, making them easier to find and kill.
    I have seen many online sources suggest this, but I have found it to be totally ineffective. A healthy squash plant will get fairly large, and their long vines and large leaves make it very easy for the bugs to hide. I have seen the bugs circle around a stalk to hide as I look around the plant. With mulch around the plants, the bugs can pretty much hide anywhere, and usually NOT under the boards. I even tried NOT using mulch, but that did not help.
    • I have heard from MANY sources that marigolds will repel squash bugs.
    As far as I can tell, squash bugs are completely unfazed by marigolds. I planted marigolds around the outside of my entire garden, and planted them all around and amongst the squash plants. TOTALLY INEFFECTIVE. I will say that there are many varieties of marigolds, and I have not tried them all. I think this remedy is a waste of your time, unless someone can tell you exactly which type of marigold repels squash bugs (and even then, I would be skeptical). I still have marigolds in my garden just because my family likes them.
    • I’ve been told that using cedar wood chips as a mulch around the plant will repel squash bugs and keep them away.
    This was also totally ineffective.
    • I have tried tying the squash vines to a wire fence (to get the leaves and vines off of the ground).
    Unlike cucumbers and other vining plants, the squash vines are just too heavy and cumbersome for this to work well. I’m not sure it would help even if I COULD get the plants to grow on a fence, or that it would be good for the plant.
    • I have tried forcing the plants to grow inside a tomato cage, again to try and keep the leaves and vines off of the ground.
    This did make it a little easier for me to find/see the bugs, but I’m not sure it was really healthy for the plant, and I still lost most of my plants before they produced a single squash. I have to declare this solution a total failure as well.
    • I have tried crop rotation–planting the squash in a different location in the garden each year.
    Totally ineffective against squash bugs (although still a good idea, in general).
    • I have tried skipping growing squash for a year.
    Squash bugs reappeared as soon as I started planting squash again.
    • I have tried REDUCING the number of plants to just a few, so that I could more easily manage checking for bugs on a daily basis.
    I just could not catch enough of them soon enough to prevent damage and death of the plants. I sometimes could not check every single day.
    • I always remove and burn the dead squash plants immediately when they die.
    Still a good idea, even though it has never helped my squash bug problem.
    • I long ago gave up planting spaghetti squash, even though my whole family loves it.
    Even though we would get quite a few nice spaghetti squash before the squash bugs killed the plants, the bugs were SO prolific and uncontrollable, that I just could not stand having something in my garden that resulted in hundreds or thousands of new squash bugs being produced each year.

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