The humble squash bug is truly a remarkable creature. The neonicotinoid pesticides that play such havoc with the fragile bees and birds have no effect whatsoever on the resilient squash bug. Indeed, they seem to be impervious to all pesticides; a poison strong enough to kill them would also poison the squash, which makes the whole effort rather self-defeating.  Even the organic farmers, who have an answer for every problem, have no answer for this problem, short of picking them up one-by-one and squashing them, while tearing the eggs off the leaves. This turns out to be a full-time job, as the bugs are very prolific. So it is no surprise that last summer I ended up ripping out my summer squash plants, since I was just feeding the squash bug family rather than my own.

Still, I was loathe to give up so easily against such a small and seemingly weak opponent. To do so would make me feel like the American Army in Vietnam. Or in Iraq. Or in Afghanistan. That’s not a good feeling (been there; done that; not a good feeling.) So this year, I decided to take a hint from some Indian farmers and go for the nuclear option. It seems these farmers have discovered that in place of expensive pesticides, they can get the same results or better by spraying their fields with Coca-Cola, and at a tenth of the cost. As Dave Barry says, “I am not making this up.”

To test the theory, I planted two zucchinis this year, a plant considered a delicacy among the squash bug set.  And sure enough, some clever bug entrepreneurs immediately located the plants and began selling homesteads and condos in the thing. Enter my with my spray bottle of Coca-Cola dilute of 3:1. Spraying the little buggers sends them immediately into a kind of shock, shaking in a way I’ve never seen any bug do before. And if you catch them in flagrante delicto (which is how one normally finds them—they really are little buggers) it’s immediate coitus interruptus as they separate and head for the hills, or rather stagger for the undergrowth, never to be seen again. And should she manage to lay an egg cluster, a simple shot of Coke keeps them from hatching. Truly a wonder drug.

Some think it works simply by attracting ants, which eat the larvae, but this doesn’t square with the observed results of bugs in shock and eggs that won’t hatch. How it actually works, I leave to others, perhaps to some young scientist eager to win a Nobel Prize (or to have his career ruined by the chemical companies.) And there are any number of morals about modern life one can draw from this parable. That too, I leave to others. I will simply bask in my victory. In the meantime, anybody got any good zucchini recipes?


  1. I’ll have to keep this in mind, as squash bugs are the bane of my existence every summer. The Waltham butternuts pretty much shrug them off — but they wreak havoc on my summer squashes without fail.

    I’ve also heard that spraying them with a cayenne pepper solution works — but if it doesn’t I might be going to this option.

  2. That may be true, Matthew74, but I would waste coffee on such a task. It’s too precious. However, Mountain Dew or, if you can still find it, Joltz, may be even more effective than Coca Cola. 🙂

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