How to Get Rid of Squash Vine Borers

Updated on January 28, 2020
OldRoses profile image

Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been associated with Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.


I just discovered that my pumpkin vine is dying. Much to my dismay when I checked the main stem, I discovered that a squash vine borer has taken up residence in it.

What are Squash Vine Borers?

The squash vine borer is the larvae of the clearwing moth (Hemaris thysbe). The moths are easy to identify. They are ½-inch long and their bodies have distinctive markings: black dots on an orange abdomen. They have two sets of wings. The front pair are metallic green and the back pair are clear hence the name clearwing moth.

Clearwing Moth
Clearwing Moth | Source

They lay their flat brown oval eggs at the base of squash, pumpkin and zucchini plants. The eggs hatch within one to two weeks. The larvae, which are white or cream color with brown heads, burrow into the stems of the plants where they feed for two to four weeks. They eat through the center of the stems blocking the flow of water to the rest of the plant which is why your plants die.

If you see the leaves on your squash are wilting, check the stems closest to the ground. You can see the hole where the larvae entered. Another sign is “frass” which is the excrement or droppings of the larvae. It resembles sawdust and can be green or orange-yellow in color.

Frass | Source

The larvae then leave the stems and burrow two inches into the soil to pupate into moths. The resulting moths emerge from the soil in May in the southern parts of the US or late June/early July in in northern areas. Because the moths emerge so early in the South, there can be two generations of moths during the growing season there while only one generation is possible in the northern states.

Use Yellow Traps

A good way to prevent squash vine borers in your garden is to kill the moths before they lay their eggs. Unlike most moths who are active at night, clearwing moths are active during the day so it is easy to see when they have emerged from the soil and are active in your garden. The moths are attracted to the color yellow. Use yellow sticky traps (available at most nurseries) to trap them.

If you have yellow bowls at home, you can fill them with soapy water and leave them around your squash. The moths will find them irresistible and fly into them and drown.

Use sticky yellow traps to trap the moths.
Use sticky yellow traps to trap the moths. | Source

Cover Your Vines

You can prevent the moths from laying their eggs around your squash by preventing them from gaining access to the plants. Cover your plants with floating row covers during the time when the moths are looking for places to lay their eggs. Be sure to anchor the covers with pins, soil or rocks so that they cannot get underneath them. This only works if you are certain that there are no moths emerging from burrows in the soil underneath the covers.

Uses Beneficial Insects to Kill the Moths

Introduce parasitic wasps into your garden to kill the moths. They consider clearwing moths to be tasty treats.

Plant a Trap Crop

Squash vine borers attack squash, pumpkins and zucchini but their favorite food is Blue Hubbard squash. Plant Blue Hubbard squash around the perimeter of your garden. The moths will preferentially lay their eggs in the Blue Hubbards, leaving your other squashes to grow and produce free of the squash vine borer.

Create a Barrier

Another good way to keep the borers out of your squash is to create a barrier so that they cannot burrow into the stems. You can wrap your stems with nylon strips (pantyhose used to be a popular option) or strips of aluminum foil.

Remove the Borers From Inside Your Vines

Once the eggs have hatched and the larvae have entered the stems, using a thin bladed knife, you can slit open the stems, find the larvae and remove them. After you have done so, cover the exposed stem with soil to promote the growth of secondary roots.

Or you can take a wire, a needle or even a tooth pick and thread it through the hole where the larvae entered, and impale them which will kill them.

Remove the Infested Parts of the Vines

The most drastic thing you can do to prevent squash vine borers from killing your plants is to cut off the section of vine that is dead and then cover parts of the remaining vines with mounds of soil. The sections of vine covered with soil will develop their own root system and continue to grow.

This sounds weird but if you examine the rest of your vines, you will see that parts of them have grown roots wherever they touch the soil.

Remove All Garden Debris

If your garden becomes infested with squash vine borers, remove all of the affected plants immediately. Place them in a garbage bag and dispose of them in the trash. Do not put them in your composter. At the end of the season, clear away all plant material from your garden and then till the soil. This will kill any larvae pupating in your soil. Till the soil again in the spring to make sure that you got all of the larvae.

Use Crop Rotation

Crop rotation is a great way to prevent squash vine borers. Do not plant cucurbits in the same plot two years in a row. Either plant something else entirely from another plant family, or plant cucumbers, melons or watermelons which are not bothered by borers instead. That way, any moths that were hibernating in the soil will emerge next year and not find any plants that their larvae like to eat.

© 2017 Caren White


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)