Wireworm are the larval stage of click beetles. They are a common pest in the UK, across the United States and elsewhere. Wireworms attack germinating seeds and roots and can quickly destroy a lot of your hard work if you do not take steps to control them and to protect your plants. But the most common damage is to potatoes – where wireworms of certain click beetles tunnel into the tubers.
Here are some things you can do to tackle this problem:
Boost Biodiversity – Attract Natural Predators
The best way to deal with any pests in an organic garden is to create a natural, balanced ecosystem. Make sure there are plenty of birds and other natural wireworm predators around to eat wireworms and keep their numbers down.
Planting plenty of bird-friendly perennial plants, shrubs and trees can help. As can placing bird feeders, bird baths, and other features to keep feathered friends and other wildlife visiting your garden.
As well as attracting birds, you should also attract other species that eat wireworms, such as hedgehogs, wasps and ground beetles. Make sure your garden is welcoming to wildlife to keep the ecosystem healthy and in balance.
Expose the Soil Before Planting a New Growing Area
Wireworms can be common where a new vegetable patch has been created on a previously undisturbed area covered with lawn. Exposing the soil to natural predators such as birds before planting can help reduce incidence of any problems.
Remove Wireworm Larvae From the Soil Whenever They Are Found
If you are digging in your garden or managing soil, remain vigilant and remove wireworm larvae from the soil whenever you see any. The larvae are up to 25mm long, and thin, yellowing brown in colour, with three pairs of small legs at the head end. However, it is worth noting that there are more than 70 different click beetle species in Britain and only a handful of those actually have larvae that will do damage to your crops.
Sow a Mustard Cover Crop
If you have a problem with wireworm, consider sowing a winter crop of mustard before potatoes. It is believed that mustard can reduce wireworm populations by stimulating the pest to complete their life cycle more quickly.
Practice Good Crop Rotation
It is important not to plant potatoes (and certain other annual crops) in the same growing areas year after year. Move your potatoes around and you are less likely to find that there is a build up of wireworms in the soil.
Use A Potato as a Wireworm Trap
You can also use a potato as a wireworm trap. Cut the potato in half and run a stick through the middle. Bury it with the stick protruding from the soil, around an inch underground. After a couple of days, pull out the trap and dispose of any wireworms it has attracted.
Nematode Controls for Wireworm
A small wireworm population in the soil is not usually a major problem. But if it does become a huge issue in your garden then you may wish to think about using a biological control. A mixture of nematode species can be purchased to control a range of vegetable pests. The nematode Heterorhabditis bacteriophora is sold specifically as a wireworm control. These must be watered into the soil as soon as possible after purchase, while soil is moist and between 12 and 20 degrees C. (So are usually applied between April and September.)
Remember, wireworms are not necessarily a major problem and in an organic garden it is often better to live and let live. But the above tips should help you keep their population in check. And protect your crops so that things do not get out of control.
Have you had a wireworm problem in your garden? How did you deal with it? Let us know in the comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.