Root Maggot Control: How to Identify, Prevent and Get Rid of Root Maggots

If you have root or cole crops in the garden, or even for commercial growers, root maggot can be a huge disturbance. They can cause a serious infestation, which, at its worst, can lead to significant loss of profit. To prevent this from happening, you need to take action as soon as possible and be familiar with how to get rid of root maggots.

One of the important things to note is that root maggots refer to the immature stage of a fly. They are from the Anthomyiidae family and Diptera order. The maggots are legless and yellowish-white. When they are adults, they have an average length of ¼ inch, which is just a bit smaller than the common housefly. They have a dark gray body and dark stripes that are found in their thorax.  They have a cylindrical shape and the body gets narrower as it reaches the head.

Root Maggots

The Maggots are Legless and Yellowish-white

Root Maggot’s Habitat

Similar to other common garden pests, the adults spend their winter under the soil. They start to be active in spring or the first few weeks of summer. When they mate, females can produce as much as 200 eggs. The eggs are laid in the stems of the host plants or in the cracks of these stems. After a few days, the eggs will hatch and the larvae will emerge. These larvae will burrow into the soil and feed on the roots of their host plant. Feeding will take a maximum of three weeks before they undergo pupation on the roots of the plant or the soil that surrounds it.

Identifying Root Maggot’s Damage

Plants Affected

Root vegetables are the most common hosts for this pest. To be specific, they are common in turnips, carrots, cabbage, onions, cauliflower, broccoli, mustard, and radish, among others. Different types of root maggots can bring heavy infestation in a specific group of crops. For instance, cabbage root maggots are common in Brassica crops.


Most of the symptoms of root maggots will be apparent in transplants and seedlings. Watch out for the following signs to monitor their presence, and in turn, to act immediately:

  • The roots will show the obvious signs of damage. There will be tunnels, which result from the feeding of the maggots.
  • Because of these holes, the roots will be unable to receive the nutrients that are necessary for its survival. With this, it follows that they will lose vigor. There will be soft spots on the crop and some portions will show rot. To add, they will also appear yellowish.

Results of Infestation

One fly can produce as much as 100 eggs in a day in a single plant. This will already provide you with an idea of how destructive root maggots can be. They can lead to an unattractive appearance of the root crops, although most of them will still be fit for human consumption. However, for commercial growers, this will be a big problem. Any cosmetic damage to a root crop will make it hard to market, and hence, there is a possibility of suffering from an economic loss.

Root Maggot Damage

Small Turnip Root Damaged by Root Maggots

How to Get Rid of Root Maggots

Natural and Organic Solutions

To prevent and eliminate root maggots in a safe and effective manner, the following are some of the solutions that can bring promising results:

  • Crop rotation is one of the best things that you can do, especially as a preventive measure. The root maggots from the last planting season can still be present in the plant bed. They can still contaminate the new plants, which is why it will be a good idea to have new crops, specifically those that are resistant to this pest.
  • Using row covers will also be a big help, although this deals more with adult flies. The maggots crawl on the ground, which is why the covers will not help to limit their population. With floating row covers, the adult flies will not get in contact with the plant and they will not be able to lay their eggs. When using fabric covers, however, make sure that it is made from a material that will still allow moisture and sunlight to pass through.
  • Sanitation is also a promising solution for root maggots. By keeping the area clean, you are lessening the susceptibility of the garden to their infestation. Get rid of leaf litter or decaying vegetation. Tilling the soil will also help to expose the larvae that burrow underneath and to kill them.
  • There are also biological controls that can yield a high level of success. Encouraging natural predators in the garden is one of the safest ways to deal with the pesky maggots. Among others, parasitic wasps and rove beetles are some of the best to have. They will kill the larvae and will not harm beneficial insects.
  • You can also consider putting paper collars on the base of the host plant. This will act as a protective barrier, and hence, inhibit the entry of the root maggots. Cotton and waterproof discs will also help to block access and minimize infestation.
  • Another simple but effective solution is the use of diatomaceous earth, which is popular because it is eco-friendly. This is a material that looks like talc powder. Sprinkle it on the soil and this will become less attractive to adult flies, and hence, prevent them from laying their eggs in that area.
  • Similar to diatomaceous earth, using wood ash and hot pepper can also deliver the same benefit. It will repel adult flies and will make the soil less attractive for laying eggs.

Chemical Solutions

While chemicals are effective in controlling the population, it is important to pay attention to proper timing of their application. Do it before the maggots penetrate the roots. Otherwise, it will be too late. However, it is important to be cautious about the use of pesticides. They may contain harsh chemicals that can be toxic beyond the pests that you are targeting. Be sure to read the label from the manufacturer and follow their safety precautions.

To be specific, some of the best products that will be instrumental in controlling the population of root maggots include Trigard-OMC, Admire, Lorsban, and Capture LFR. Determine the type of the plant where infestation is evident before deciding on which pesticide will work best.

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