Wireworms are small and they have a white body when they are young. They are slender with a hard and jointed body. The color is reddish-brown, but there are also some that are white or yellow. Their length will be about ¼ to ¾ inch. They have three pairs of short legs and a notched tail. As they grow older, their color also becomes darker. It takes about six years before the larvae fully mature. By this time, it will grow a hard shell and the body will appear rusty.
The habitat of wireworms will depend on their specific stage of development or the weather. Like most pests, they do not attack during the cold season. With this, they often overwinter two feet under the ground. As the temperature becomes warmer, they move to the surface of the soil. They favor soil with a temperature that ranges from 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Aside from the ground, they also survive in rotten wood or decaying vegetation. In their host plants, injury is common in the roots and seeds.
Identifying Wireworm’s Damage
The host will depend on the species of the wireworm that are present in the garden or agricultural land. Generally speaking, some of the most common hosts include grassy weeds, alfalfa, carrots, potatoes, rutabaga, sugar beets, lettuce, corn, sunflower, onion, and canola. Also, germinating seeds emit carbon dioxide, which can attract wireworms.
Watch out for the following signs that will be indicative of the presence of wireworms. When you spot any of these symptoms, be sure to act immediately to control the problem before it becomes too hard to resolve:
- In most cases, they will feed on the underground portion of the host plant. They will consume the roots. Because the roots are under the soil, the damage on such part will not be easily evident. Once it damages the roots, it is inevitable that the plant will wilt and discolor.
- You also have to check the leaves. Most of the central leaves will be dead, despite the fact that the outer leaves may seem healthy.
- The stems will also shred, although they may not totally detach from the base or from the plant.
- In the case of tubers and root crops, they will create entry holes. This will make the host more prone to the entry of pathogens that could encourage rotting and other health problems.
Results of Infestation
Most of the infestation of wireworms will be evident when the spring season starts, which is when they climb up the ground from under the soil. The chewing on the tissues of the plant will cause esthetic damage, and in the end, will deprive the plants of the nutrients that are necessary for its survival. Eventually, this will lead to killing the plant. In large agricultural lands, this would be a huge profit loss for commercial growers since the crops will no longer be marketable.
How to Get Rid of Wireworms
Natural and Organic Solutions
Looking for the best ways to eliminate and prevent wireworms without resorting to toxic methods? Below are some of the solutions that can deliver promising results:
- Sanitation is one of the best things that you can do. It is good to keep the garden clean so that the wireworms will not be able to find a suitable habitat. See to it that there is no leaf litter, decaying vegetation, or rotting wood, among other debris that will give the pest a place to live or hide.
- Tilling the soil is another simple solution that will work. Even raking the ground will be a good method to get rid of the wireworms. Doing so will expose them on the surface. You can handpick the wireworms as many of them are easily visible. Throw them in a bucket of soapy water, which will instantly kill the pest and prevent them from spreading infestation.
- You might also want to consider crop rotation. Considering the fact that wireworms can live for several years, it will be good to plant different crops after every harvest season. As much as possible concentrate on those that are more resistant to wireworms. Buckwheat and flax are some of the best examples of plants that are not susceptible to infestation of wireworms.
- There are also traps that you can set out to get rid of wireworms. Cut potato studs into half, remove the eye, and spear it on a stick. Bury it on the ground while exposing the stick so that you can remove it easily later on. After about a week, pull the stick and you will see the wireworms feeding on the potato.
- The use of predatory nematodes will also be a promising solution. They are so tiny. In fact, almost a million of them can survive in a two-inch sponge. These roundworms are great because they will kill only the pest. They will not harm humans, mammals, or the environment in general.
- There are other biological controls that can also prove to be equally effective. For instance, you can encourage the presence of birds in the garden and they will feed on the larvae instead of having to remove them by hand. One of the best ways to attract them to the garden is to have bird feeders or water. Chickens will do an excellent job as well.
After planting the crops, there are no insecticides that will be effective in dealing with wireworms. Instead, chemicals are only for pre-emergent treatment, specifically before planting the seeds. In this case, one of the active ingredients that can prove to be effective is thiamethoxam, which is the main component of The Cruiser Maxx. The latter is a pesticide that is popular for potatoes and cereals. When it comes to fumigants, on the other hand, common active ingredients and brand names include methyl bromide (Metabrom) and chloropicrin (Metapicrin). Using chemicals requires the need to observe caution because of having toxic components that are harmful for humans and the environment.