Wireworms are frequently found in gardens, causing the most damage in vegetable beds where they attack the roots of seedlings, including those of cucurbits (squash, cucumbers, melons, etc.), corn, beets, beans and peas, weakening or killing them. They also dig holes in roots, bulbs and tubers potatoes, onions and carrots, leaving them unfit for consumption.
Wireworms are not worms in the sense of earthworms, but rather long, thin insect larvae with hard bodies, usually in some shade of brown, orange or ocher. They measure about ½ to 1 ½ inches (1 to 4 cm) in length, depending on the species and the worm’s maturity.
They’re actually the larvae of click beetles, elongated, often black beetles of the Elateridae family. There are nearly 10,000 species of click beetles worldwide, but only a handful damage vegetables.
Wireworms are often found in vegetable beds recently converted from lawn, because they are very fond of grass roots. Since they can remain in the larval stage for 2–6 years, it may take several years before the population begins to drop … unless you help it along!
The Way to a Wireworm’s Heart…
You can seriously reduce wireworm numbers by trapping them. However, no special trap is needed. You just need a piece of potato and a barbecue skewer.
You see, potatoes are one of their favorite foods. And if you’re all out of potatoes, try carrots instead: they work just as well.
Cut a raw potato into pieces of at least 1 x 2 inches (3 cm x 5 cm) in size and insert a skewer into each one (this is so you can find them readily later). Now bury the pieces in the garden about 2 to 6 inches (5 to 15 cm) deep and about 3 feet (1 m) apart, leaving the skewer visible above the ground.
After 24 to 48 hours, dig up the potato chunk using the skewer as a guide (this is best done in the evening when wireworms are most active). Remove the wormy potato segment with its wireworms and replace it with a fresh piece. Repeat as long as you keep finding wireworms (they’re active from mid-spring through fall).
It’s surprising how many wireworms you can catch this way! Maybe you could do a tally and have a neighborhood wireworm challenge?
Best of luck with your wireworm hunt!