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Wireworm Damage (06/06/19)

Some recent extension calls, texts and emails indicate that this is a good year for wireworm damage due to the adequate soil moisture and delayed crop planting.

Some recent extension calls, texts and emails indicate that this is a good year for wireworm damage due to the adequate soil moisture and delayed crop planting.

Wireworms, the larval stage of click beetles (Elateridae), are a common soil insect pest of many North Dakota field crops including wheat, barley, corn, soybean, dry beans, sunflowers, pulse crops, to name a few. More than 30 different pest species can damage most field crops grown in North America. Wireworms are most likely to be problems when field crops follow pastures, grasslands or grass crops. The extremely broad feeding habits and long larval life span, 3-5 years, cause damage to almost any field crop grown in rotation. Infestations often are found in coarse textured soils (sandy loam) where moisture is abundant, perhaps in low spots of fields.

During crop establishment, wireworms damage crops by feeding directly on the seeds, seedling roots and by boring into the seedling crown. This results in thinning plant stands and yield loss. Damage can range from patchy stand development to complete crop loss at high populations. Wireworms will also bore into tuber and root crops damaging their quality and value, such as potatoes and sugarbeets. Adults do not cause damage. Insecticide seed treatment, planter box treatment or soil-applied insecticide at-plant are used for management of wireworms. There are no ‘rescue’ treatments.

Janet J. Knodel

Extension Entomologist

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