You have probably heard “The Joy of Gardening” in radio and TV commercials for a local department store or seen the book by the same name. Sometimes, I question that joy! I tell myself “gardening IS fun and rewarding.” However there is also that constant war of you versus what seems like everything else trying to destroy your garden. Between the dog digging, the chickens scratching, aphids eating, squirrels burying, and mother nature’s unpredictable weather there are challenges. A few years ago I discovered yet another big enemy – the wireworm.
Wireworms are .5 to 1.5 inch orange “worms” that live in soil feeding on roots. Yes roots! They can easily eat enough of the roots of a plant to cause it to become sick or die. They like to burrow into root vegetables like carrots, onions, and radish and are especially hard on potatoes. They will burrow into the potato, leaving holes behind. The potato will then start to rot from the inside out while in the ground. Discovering wireworm damage to potatoes was definitely a low point for gardening over the years.
The six legged “worms” will also feed on large seeds like corn – usually killing the seed or the freshly germinated plant before it has much of a chance to grow.
Wireworms aren’t really worms , they are the larvae for the click beetle. Unfortunately while in the larvae stage they can live for 2 – 5 years chomping away at your garden’s roots. The beetle itself is not much of a pest but occasionally can wander into homes and buildings. They are called a click beetle because if they end up on their back they will make a click sound as they launch up in the air. Admittedly, it is sort of fun to see the first time.
If you seen an evil wireworm kill it. I found the most satisfying thing is to feed them to the chickens. The orange larvae must be some sort of delicacy because chickens really really like them. If you don’t have chickens nearby, find another satisfying way to polish off the little buggers. You absolutely do not want them around your garden. Once infested it is extremely difficult to get rid of them.
For more information on wireworms search the internet. Here are a few links:
- Wikipedia – Wireworm
- Oregon State University – Wireworm : biology and nonchemical management in potatoes in the Pacific Northwest
- Penn State – Wireworms as Pests of Field Crops
- University of Illinois – Wireworms