Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Too many mother uckers uckin' with my squa!

I got home from work today and went to visit the garden, where the squash (3 Sunburst, 1 Peter Pan) are in heavy blossom mode ...

Only to find this ...

Actually, about 70 or 80 of those, which you may recognize as the eggs of one Melittia cucurbitae, a.k.a. the Squash Vine Borer moth, a.k.a "Those goddamn motherfuckers" (pardon the blue language).

I can't tell you I was surprised -- growing squash around these parts is largely an exercise in futility due to the Squash Vine Borer. But, as fast and prolific as squash are, it's worth it to keep trying for the few weeks of production we usually manage to get before they succumb.

And the end is not pretty. Once any one of those eggs hatch, the tiny larva burrows into the hollow squash stem and begins burrowing downward until it hits the solid, meaty base, where it starts eating, growing and pooping. Usually you'll see a little sawdusty poop (frass) pile at the base of the stem as the caterpillar eats its way through. More and more of the plant's leaves get wilty (a condition referred to as "tha itis" in our house) until they're all dead. Then the fat borer crawls out of the stem, belches loudly and drops into the soil where it digs in and cocoons up for the winter.

Actually, I found a few of them when I was preparing the beds in February. These were summarily executed.

Organic prescriptions for SVB include covering your plants with row cover and pollinating by hand, picking off eggs and spraying or injecting the stems with Bt, and shopping for squash at Whole Foods.

I opted to pick off as many as I could and hope for the best.


Look who I found skulking about in the pea seedlings ...

ps. The squash plants aren't actually that green. Something in the camera>iPhoto>PicasaWeb chain was messing with the levels, a problem I've since remedied.



Blogger Katie said...

So THAT'S what those torpedo-shaped grubs are?! Thanks for the pictures. I had no idea.

Now I know what got into my watermelon last year.

April 23, 2008 9:54 PM  
Blogger Garrett Sawyer said...

I sure hope I don't get those on my cucumber plants this season, I think I've seen those around here before but not recently, hopefully they don't like it around here anymore.

April 25, 2008 2:10 AM  
Blogger Lisa Blair said...

Found your blog through Katie's (gardenpunks). Hilarious Flight of the Conchords reference...

April 28, 2008 8:55 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

Lisa, if you care about Squash Vine Borers and like Fight of the Conchords, you're probably my target audience. Thanks for stopping by.

April 29, 2008 12:06 PM  
Blogger Jon said...

Thanks for the help! I've tried quite a few sites that had lots of info but no pictures as helpful as yours for the eggs! I've been doing similar battles within limited success but I'm starting to feel like I can give those little buggers what they really deserve...

July 11, 2008 10:42 AM  
Blogger Cathy said...

I was at war with these this summer -no need to include sorry details BUT I did find that using one of those mini lint rollers worked well for picking up the eggs and made the process less fiddly

September 25, 2008 7:28 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

Cathy, that's genius, I will have to try it.

September 26, 2008 10:37 AM  

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