Wireworm

Numerous species belonging to the Elateridae (click beetle) family

Wireworms feed on plant roots and burrow into tubers
Wireworms feed on plant roots and burrow into tubers
Wireworms feed on plant roots and burrow into tubers
Click beetle (adult wireworm)
Click beetle (adult wireworm)
Click beetle (adult wireworm)
Click beetle (adult wireworm)
Click beetle (adult wireworm)
Click beetle (adult wireworm)
Click beetles (adult wireworms)
Click beetles (adult wireworms) [Credit: ©entomart]
Click beetles (adult wireworms) [Credit: ©entomart]
Click beetle (adult wireworm)
Click beetle (adult wireworm) [Credit: ©entomart]
Click beetle (adult wireworm) [Credit: ©entomart]


Host Plants:

On Crops: Carrots and potatoes, and sometimes beets and rutabagas, and the germinating seeds of cucurbits, sweet corn, beans and peas

Where Found:

Most temperate climates where click beetles are commonly seen

Description:

Unlike grubs and other soil-dwelling beetle larvae, wireworms do not curl up when disturbed. Their hard-shelled tan to orange-brown bodies remain elongated or curved, as when you discover one tunneling through the top of a carrot. Adults are called click beetles because if you place one on its back, it will flex its midsection, clicking itself to get back on its feet.

Damage:

Wireworms feed for two to six years, depending on climate. Where populations are high, they may ruin pea, bean or corn seeds by boring holes in them. Potatoes are the crop most often affected, but any root vegetable with wireworm holes in it is unfit for long-term storage.

Preventing Problems:

Click beetles prefer to lay their eggs in grassy areas, so new garden beds previously covered with lawn are likely to host wireworms. Where wireworms are a concern, grow non-host crops the first year after space is converted to garden, such as onions, lettuce, sunflowers and buckwheat. Chickens love wireworms, and will eagerly gather them from freshly cultivated soil. You can check a spot for wireworms by burying pieces of fresh carrot 4 inches (10 cm) deep in early spring. If the carrot baits attract wireworms after five days, do not plant potatoes or carrots there. Wait until the soil is warm to plant beans or corn so the seeds will germinate quickly, making them less susceptible to wireworm damage.

Managing Outbreaks:

Promptly harvest vegetables that are being damaged by wireworms. Cut away the damaged parts and eat within a few days. Gather wireworms you see in the soil and place them on a bird feeder. Sow buckwheat in wireworm-infested soil.

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