Gardening

Surgery for Squash Vine Borers

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When squash vines suddenly collapse, it may be the work of squash vine borers. If you find that borers are at work, surgery for squash vine borers is a last-ditch technique to try save your plants.

Once borers are inside the plants, you have two options: ignore them and harvest what your plant will give you until it finally succumbs (it won’t take long), or go after the rascals with a knife. If you have only a precious few plants, it may pay to try to extract them. To do surgery for squash vine borers, use a small knife to carefully make a cut lengthwise down (not across) the infested part of the stem, as shown at the top of the page. Extract or kill the borers, then bury the cut portion of the stem in the soil.

If you have more than two months left in the growing season, you can also plant another batch of squash and watch them carefully from the beginning.

Of course, the best way to keep squash vine borers from destroying your plants is to stop them from hatching in the first place. Keep a eye out for their eggs — they look like tiny brown seeds and are usually found near the base of the plant. If you see any, remove them immediately, as squash vine borer eggs hatch in a week or less. Chance are they’ll be back, too, so check your plants regularly.

“You know you’re a gardening nerd when . . . you do surgery for borers.”

Cut open the squash stem to expel the squash vine borers.
Once inside the plant, the only way to get borers is to go after them. Some gardeners use a small knife to carefully cut lengthwise, not across, the infested part of the stem and poke (to kill) or extract the borers.
A squash plant stem infected with borers will have holes and a sawdust trail.
This is a look at the damage done to the base of a squash plant by a squash vine borer as he bores and eats through the stem. You may see holes in the stem and a sawdust-like mess.