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It's not uncommon for bugs and aphids to infest milkweed at this time of year. - Original Credit: For The Baltimore Sun
It's not uncommon for bugs and aphids to infest milkweed at this time of year. - Original Credit: For The Baltimore Sun (University of Maryland Extension / HANDOUT)

Last year my milkweeds attracted monarch butterflies and many caterpillars. This year, the plants are covered with black and orange insects. Should I try to get rid of them? Will my plants be okay next year?

Your milkweed bugs are not harmful unless you want to save the seeds, which they feed on. Search for them on University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center’s Maryland Grows blog. Yellowish oleander aphids also are common on milkweeds this time of year. (Search ‘aphids got your milkweeds’ on the center’s website.)

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You can wear gloves and remove these insects manually (aphids are easy to squish) or dislodge them with a strong spray of water. Both of these insects tend to be common on milkweeds, but the plants typically return just fine because they have stored enough energy in their roots systems by this time of year.

I am already harvesting butternut squash, as the plants are dying back. Last week I pulled one intact squash but it looks terrible with all these brown rough patches, in all kinds of crazy patterns. What is wrong with this squash and is it still edible?

This sounds like cucumber beetles or other insects may have been feeding on the skin before it hardened. Butternut squash sometimes develop a natural wartiness as they ripen. It’s edible either way. If the patches are dry and callused, the fruits should store okay in your basement.

University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information at extension.umd.edu/hgic. Click “Ask Maryland’s Gardening Experts” to send questions and photos.

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