Borer Garden Pests: The Unwanted Guests in Your Garden

Gardening can be a rewarding and enjoyable hobby, but it also comes with its share of challenges. One of the most frustrating issues that gardeners face is dealing with pests, especially borer insects that can cause significant damage to plants. In this article, we will discuss three common borer garden pests: the European corn borer, peach tree borer, and squash vine borer. We’ll also cover prevention and management strategies to help you protect your garden from these unwelcome visitors.

The importance of pest control

Controlling pests is essential for maintaining a healthy and productive garden. Borer insects, in particular, can cause severe damage to plants, often resulting in reduced yields or even plant death. By understanding the life cycles and habits of these pests, gardeners can develop effective strategies to keep them at bay.

European Corn Borer


The European corn borer (Ostrinia nubilalis) is a small, grayish-brown moth with a wingspan of about 1 inch. The larvae are cream-colored with a dark head and can grow up to 1 inch in length.

Life cycle

European corn borers overwinter as larvae in plant debris or corn stalks. In the spring, they pupate and emerge as adults, with females laying eggs on corn plants and other host plants. The eggs hatch into larvae, which bore into the plant’s stalk or leaves, where they feed and develop. There are typically two generations of European corn borers per year.

Damage and control

European corn borers can cause significant damage to corn and other host plants, including peppers, potatoes, and beans. The larvae bore into the stalks and leaves, weakening the plant and potentially causing it to collapse. To control these pests, remove plant debris in the fall, use pheromone traps to monitor adult populations, and apply insecticides when necessary.

Peach Tree Borer


The peach tree borer (Synanthedon exitiosa) is a clear-winged moth with a dark blue body and yellow bands. The larvae are white with a brown head and can grow up to 1 inch in length.

Life cycle

Adult peach tree borers emerge in late spring and early summer, with females laying eggs on the bark of peach trees and other stone fruit trees. The eggs hatch into larvae, which bore into the tree’s trunk or lower branches. The larvae feed on the tree’s cambium layer, potentially girdling it and causing death.

Damage and control

Peach tree borers can cause severe damage to peach, plum, cherry, and other stone fruit trees. The larvae disrupt the flow of nutrients and water by feeding on the cambium layer, which can lead to tree death if left unchecked. To control peach tree borers, monitor for signs of infestation such as oozing sap and sawdust-like frass near the base of the tree. Apply insecticides or use nematodes as a biological control method, and practice good sanitation by removing dead or dying wood.

Squash Vine Borer


The squash vine borer (Melittia cucurbitae) is a moth with an orange-red body and metallic green forewings. Its wingspan is about 1 inch. The larvae are white with a brown head and can grow up to 1 inch in length.

Life cycle

Adult squash vine borers lay eggs on the stems of squash plants in late spring and early summer. The eggs hatch into larvae, which bore into the plant’s stem and feed on its tissue. The larvae develop inside the stem for about a month before pupating in the soil. There is typically one generation of squash vine borers per year.

Damage and control

Squash vine borers can cause significant damage to squash, pumpkins, and other cucurbits. The larvae weaken the plant by feeding on its stem tissue, often leading to wilting and plant death. To control these pests, wrap the stems of young plants with aluminum foil or use floating row covers to prevent adults from laying eggs. Remove and destroy infested plants promptly, and apply insecticides when necessary.

Prevention and management strategies

Cultural practices

Maintaining a clean and healthy garden is the first line of defense against borer pests. Remove plant debris and weeds that can harbor insects, and practice crop rotation to disrupt the life cycles of pests. Keep your plants healthy by providing proper nutrition, watering, and pruning to reduce their susceptibility to infestations.

Biological control

Beneficial insects and organisms can help control borer populations. For example, parasitic wasps, lacewings, and lady beetles can prey on borer eggs and larvae. Nematodes can be used to target the larval stage of some borers, such as the peach tree borer. Encourage these beneficial organisms by planting a variety of flowers and plants that attract them.

Chemical control

Insecticides can be an effective tool for managing borer pests, but they should be used judiciously to minimize harm to beneficial insects. Apply insecticides according to the label instructions and only when necessary, targeting the most vulnerable stages of the pest’s life cycle.


How do you get rid of borers?

Getting rid of borers depends on the type of borer infestation. Some ways to control borers include using insecticides, removing infested plants, pruning infested areas, and preventing future infestations through proper plant care and maintenance.

What is the best insecticide for borers?

The best insecticide for borers depends on the type of borer and the plants being treated. Some effective insecticides for borers include permethrin, bifenthrin, and carbaryl. It is important to read and follow the label instructions before using any insecticide.

What plants repel vine borers?

Some plants that repel vine borers include marigolds, petunias, and geraniums. These plants emit a scent that is unpleasant to vine borers and may help deter them from laying eggs.

What does squash vine borer damage look like?

Squash vine borer damage may appear as wilting, yellowing, or stunted growth of the plant. The stem near the base of the plant may have a hole or sawdust-like material present, indicating the presence of the borer larvae.

Is it hard to get rid of borer?

Getting rid of borers can be challenging, depending on the severity of the infestation and the type of borer. It may require a combination of methods, such as using insecticides, pruning infested areas, and removing infested plants, as well as preventive measures to avoid future infestations.

Can you get rid of wood borer?

It is possible to get rid of wood borers, but it can be a difficult and time-consuming process. Treatment methods may include using insecticides, heat treatment, or fumigation. Preventive measures, such as sealing and treating wood, can also help to avoid future infestations.

How do I know if I have borer?

Signs of borer infestation may include holes or sawdust-like material on plants or wood, wilting or yellowing of leaves, or stunted growth. It is important to properly identify the type of borer present in order to effectively treat the infestation.

Do borer bombs work?

Borer bombs, also known as insect foggers, can be effective in controlling some types of borers, but they may not be effective for all types of infestations. It is important to follow the label instructions carefully and to use other control methods as needed.

What is a borer infestation?

A borer infestation occurs when borers, such as insects or larvae, invade and damage plants or wood. The damage may appear as holes or sawdust-like material and can weaken or kill the host plant or structure.

Is neem oil good for borers?

Neem oil can be effective in controlling some types of borers, such as squash vine borers, by suffocating the larvae and repelling adult borers from laying eggs. However, its effectiveness may vary depending on the type of borer and the application method.

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