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Squash Those Squash Bugs (And Mash Those Potato Beetles)

Orange-striped Colorado Potato Beetle on a leaf
Watch out for orange egg clusters on the leaves of potatoes and eggplants, from the Colorado Potato Beetle, shown here.

Insect pests are out in force in the vegetable garden. One primary line of defense is searching for and destroying the egg clusters, to help stop an infestation before it gets going. The key is knowing how to identifty each type of insect's eggs before they hatch and take over.

Some critters lay their egg clusters on the undersides of leaves, while others lay single eggs below a veggie plant. And some helpful garden insect eggs look similar to those of the sort that will munch your potato plant down to nothing. So, in your summer vegetable garden, when it comes to halting an insect assault, remember those wise words from G.I. Joe, himself: "Knowing is half the battle."

More from All Things Gardening: Now That's Meshed Up: Covering your Plants To Protect Them From Insects

Insects that lay egg clusters under leaves and the plants they attack

Squash Beetle - These lay copper-colored eggs in a line on the backs of leaves on squash plants like zucchini, summer and winter squash. To remove the egg clusters, use duct tape wrapped around your fingers, then tap at the eggs to remove them without damaging the leaves.

Mexican Bean Beetle - These lay yellow-colored eggs on bean plants. You can squash them to stop them from hatching. ** Just don't confuse these with another insects' yellow eggs (see lady beetles, below).

Colorado Potato Beetle - These lay orange-colored eggs on the leaves of potatoes and eggplant. Squash 'em!

** Lady Beetles - These also lay yellow-colored eggs, but lady beetles or lady bugs are the good guys in the garden! Don't squash these eggs, as they will grow into insects that help control other infestations.

More from VPR: Lost & Found: Four-Spotted Spurleg Lady Beetle

Cucumber Beetle - These lay single eggs and not egg clusters. These are usually found close to the ground and under a cucumber plant. Crushing them doesn't work, and pheromone traps may work best.

If you stay on top of pests now, then come August and September, you won't be inundated by insects eating your vegetable plants.


Q: What might be causing decapitated flowers? I've been waiting for the Lisianthus buds to open. This is a new flower for me and I'm not familiar with it but this morning I noticed three of the buds on the ground. They were not eaten, just nipped off. I noticed this happening to my tulips earlier this year. I blamed the chipmunks, squirrels and rabbits that share my yard. - Eileen, in Burlington

This is typical squirrel and chipmunk modus operandi. Plant sprays can work to repel them from your plants or you could try a home remedy: take a cotton ball and dip and soak it in peppermint extract. These critters don't like the strong smell and that can deter them from nibbling your flowers. You can also try fencing or fine micro-mesh around your plants to try to keep the squirrels and chipmunks out.

More from Vermont Edition: It's Not Just You, There Actually Are A Lot More Chipmunks Out There


Q: I planted some fruit trees recently: figs, pears, plumbs. I purchased some lobster compost. Rather than try to figure out how to fit it into a rather mature wildflower garden, I was wondering if it would be OK to put it on top (rather than mixed in) the newly planted fruit trees. — Elizabeth, in Roxbury, Connecticut

Yes, go ahead and put the lobster compost around the fruit trees, almost as a mulch on top of the soil, or on the wildflowers. That's a great way to top-dress and add nutrients to the soil.

A thin grey line.

All Things Gardening is powered by you, the listener! Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie may answer them in upcoming episodes. You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling VPR at (802) 655-9451.

Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition Sunday with VPR host Mary Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch by tweeting us @vprnet.

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Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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