Prevent squash vine borers organically

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If you grow zucchini and squash, you’ve probably lost many plants over the years to squash vine borers. Well, at long last, here comes the calvary! I’d like to share the technique I’ve used to prevent squash vine borers organically in my own garden for years. It’s worked like a charm to keep these pesky, stem-hollowing insects from ruining my zucchini crop. Give it a try and report back with your results. 

How to prevent squash vine borers organically in three simple steps.

Step 1: Immediately upon planting your squash seeds or transplants, cover the area with floating row cover or a layer of insect netting to keep the adult vine borers (see photo) from accessing the plants until they’re large enough for Step 2.

Step 2: When the plants have two to three sets of true leaves, remove the row cover and wrap a four-inch long strip of aluminum foil around the base of each plant. The strips should be between one and two inches wide. Wrap them snugly around the stems, making sure the foil extends below the soil’s surface by a quarter of an inch. The foil barrier will protect the weakest point of the plant and prevent female vine borers from laying their eggs in this vulnerable area. (You can also wrap the stem with florist’s tape, if you’d prefer to have something a little more natural-looking than foil.)

preventing squash vine borers

Female squash vine borers will not lay eggs on the base of plants wrapped with a strip of aluminum foil.

Step 3: Every two weeks, head out to the garden to make adjustments. As the squash stems expand, the foil will have to be rewrapped so the plant doesn’t become girdled. This step only takes a moment and is well worth your time. If you find the plant outgrows the foil, get a new strip that’s a little larger than the one before and rewrap the stem.


Use a strip of aluminum foil to keep squash vine borers from laying eggs on your plants.

Use a strip of aluminum foil to keep squash vine borers from laying eggs on your plants.

While the foil wrap controls squash vine borers, there’s another common and persistent pest that affects squash plants: the squash bug. If squash bugs are attacking your plants, this video will show you a clever little trick for getting rid of squash bug eggs and nymphs organically – using duct tape! 

That’s all there is to preventing squash vine borers organically. So easy and so effective! Garden Pest Control Book

Tell us how you deal with squash vine borers in the comments below.

Pin it! Prevent squash vine borers organically using this quick and simple trick.

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44 Responses to Prevent squash vine borers organically

  1. Mike Davis says:

    Good tip! I used to do this, also to keep cutworms away from tomatoes, but I got tired of picking up the bits of foil each fall. This year I tried just 3 layers of newspaper instead, seemed to work.

  2. JessB says:

    I will def be doing that this next year. I’m also getting a butterfly net because one was in the garden when I was there and I couldn’t kill it, try as I might. I was soooo upset and mad! A few choice words were used.

  3. Ron Mitchell says:

    For quite awhile now I have successfully used coffee grounds around the stems. You can get them free from such places as Starbucks, or even save your own. Start when the plants are small and keep adding over the season. Add more when it rains. The scent of the used coffee grinds helps either deter the bores or masks the scent of the vine. Perhaps both? Anyways, I have not lost any plants for about 7 years now.

    • Good tip, Ron. Just be careful about any soil pH changes that may occur as the result of adding so many coffee grounds to the area. Might want to test the soil pH every few years and make any necessary adjustments.

    • Sandra says:

      I am going to do both. If I lose another crop of my squash and gourds to those dang bugs, I am going to damn my soul to hell with my foul language. Thank you both for the tips.

  4. Shelly Moore says:

    I have been fighting squash Bugs for years!!! I have made the collars for tomatoes, peppers and other plants, cause that’s what my dad taught me ☺ I didn’t know it helped control Squash Bugs!!! Yay! Another deterrent! I also recently learned that Wheelbugs eat Squash Bugs too! And guess what I found by my garage yesterday? A great big Wheel Bug! I took pics and took him to my veggie garden I hope he and his offspring eat all the squash Bugs they can!!! A little late for this year’s squash but crossing my fingers!

  5. Ralph B says:

    How about wrapping grafting tape around stems? It might deter bores and expand when stem grows.

  6. Tammy says:

    I’m confused, I found eggs on the leaves not the base of the plant. I removed the leaves that had them and destroyed them.

    • Bryan says:

      Those are probably squash bug eggs. Good idea to destroy those as well This article is about the vine borer. It lays eggs inside the base of the stem and the growing larva destroys the entire plant.

    • Andrea says:

      I also found many of those copper colored Borer eggs on the underside of my leaves

    • Those are not squash vine borer eggs. They’re squash bug eggs – these insects are two very different species. Here are some tips for managing the squash bugs that hatch from the bonze colored eggs on the leaves.

    • Cheryl Joy Lipton says:

      I have had the squash vine borer eggs on leaves also. When they are on the leaf, the larvae don’t usually live, but often I find frass on the leaf stem, very near the vine. When I slice with a knife to remove the larvae, I do find them in there sometimes, and they do get into the vine from the leaf stem sometimes.

  7. I could not grow squash in my garden because squash vine borers killed every plant. As a last resort I did the following
    1. Put yellow bowls filled with Castille soap water amount my plants.
    2. Sprayed the base of the plants with Dipel DF weekly.
    3. Released Trichogramma Wasps when I saw dead Vine Borers in the yellow bowls.
    Results: lost only 1 plant out of 40 plants to squash vine borers. I believe over time the problem will subside since I am killing the worm before it can pupate in my soil.

    • K says:

      What proportion of soap to water do you use for the yellow bowls? I want to prepare some of these!

  8. Kala says:

    How do you make collars for tomatoes?

    • If it’s for cutworms, I usually make tomato collars out of a toilet paper tube. Slit it open lengthwise and slide it around the stem of the tomato. Make sure to sink it down into the ground by an inch or so since cutworms travel just below the soil’s surface.

    • Charles Chandler says:

      I make mine from plastic dixie cups. First I grow the plant in a one gallon nursery pot to at least 20 inches. I cut the bottom out of the cup and place it over the stem at planting (remove all branches except the top three and bury the stem with the root mass).

  9. Katherine Bouton says:

    I wonder if you could use tin cans (soup can size) with both ends removed. Sink the seedling and the can into the ground so you just have an inch or two visible. Obviously make sure the roots are in the dirt.
    I didn’t have any tin cans and I’ve had a terrible squash (and cucumber) borer problem, so I tried a combination of aluminum foil and the small plastic pots the larger seedlings come in, with the bottoms cut out. Fingers crossed.

    • Marcy says:

      The cans or toilet paper roll collars do not work for borers, as the eggs are laid on the stem by a flying insect. Those collars work for cut worms, because the worms crawl across the soil to the plant.

  10. Bonnie says:

    This year I cut out the bottom of plastic transplant pots and put them around the stem, sinking them into the soil 1/4”. I haven’t adults around yet. I also had some deer net I put over the squash and adjacent brassicas to deter adults. It’s probably too big holes to stop the borer but maybe stop the cabbage moth from getting to the brassicas.

    So I’ll wait and see.

  11. Do u think mothballs around the stems would work?

    • I would not recommend this. Moth balls are made from napthalalene which is not approved for use around food and could contaminate your crops and soil. It’s a compound that’s also found in cigarette smoke and vehicle exhaust. Wouldn’t want that in the garden for sure.

  12. Jenny says:

    The squash vine borer lays egg on the stems and leaves as well. I go out every morning and pick those eggs off. The squash bug lays multiple eggs in rows. They look like little barrels. Covering and picking is the only way to deter unless you buy a special pheromone trap. Expensive but I believe they work best.

  13. kathy andresen says:

    Has anyone tried using vaseline on the stems of the squash…and if so did it work at all?

  14. Carol says:

    Is there anything you can do to save the plant once the squash borer has attacked

    • You can slice open the stem lengthwise, fish out the borer and squish it, then wrap florists tape around the stem to hold it closed. That often works and keeps the plant alive and productive.

    • Linda says:

      Thank you, Jessica. I just used this slice, fish, and wrap technique on six of my squash plants and am hoping they’ll survive. Thought I’d mention that there were sometimes 3 larvae in a single stem. Ugh, poor plants. Aluminum foil next year.

  15. Sally Calo says:

    I have inserted tooth picks in the stems above, below and around where the “saw dust” is seen from the borer. It has stopped the borer in his tracks, killing it without slicing open the stem. Saves the plants.
    Its June 23rd and I just saw my first moth ! wanted to scream ! Tin foil and mosquito netting going on tomorrow !

    • Sam says:

      That is genius. I hope I don’t have to use this trick, but I will if I need to! I just went out to check on the plants and saw 2 moths! I managed to kill one and I think seriously injure the other one.

  16. Ruth says:

    Can I plant chard or cauliflower in the soil where my SVB destroyed zucchini and squash were? Thank you in advance!
    Great tips and ideas for next year. I’m losing the battle with SVBs this year.

  17. Jim says:

    I will try it next year. I live in Michigan, the plants start great, but mid July, I see the damage. This year I tried the cup around the stems, didn’t work. I “operated” on the plants by removing the worms but I still lost many; some had 3 . Even the surviving plants are producing very little. I was thinking if electrocution works? Sounds mean but not any different 🙁

  18. Wendy says:

    I finally was able to put a garden in this year! I wish I had learned about these borers earlier as I was so sad to see all my zucchini plants had them. I am going to try to save some with the tips I learned here. Lesson learned to read up on pests earlier. Thanks for the information.

  19. Elise says:

    I wish I knew about those darn things before I planted my zucchini. I lost all 4 plants! :'( I’ll have to give your method a try next year.

  20. Kristen says:

    This was my first year with a garden & these nasty bugs, along with squash bugs, have completely destroyed my squash, zucchini & now pumpkins too. Will they be dormant in my soil (I have raised beds) or do they just come back each year when they find the right plants? Thanks!

    • They may hide in garden debris for the winter, so I suggest cleaning out your veggie garden in the autumn. Still, even with no debris, they will find your plants the following season if they’ve overwintered in the woods or a neighbor’s garden.

  21. Katie says:

    I’ve had a terrible time with SVB too. I’ve been experimenting with injecting the plant with BT. It was recommended to use a turkey baster syringe and needle but the needle gauge is too large and damages the plant too much. I used a smaller gauge and it clogged too easily. I have had success with this but can’t find just the right size needle. I think I’ll go the the pharmacy and look for 18 or 20 gauge.
    Can you tell I’m a nurse 🙂

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