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Wireworm (Click Beetle)

Closer Look Of The Wire WormThese inch long, hard segmented-shell yellow, gray or reddish-brown worms are the larvae of beetles, normally voracious feeders of vegetable crops, eating the interior tissue of seeds and roots. They resemble earthworms except for their hard segmented body, and feed entirely underground during their life cycle. Because we don’t see them, wireworms are not usually suspected of the damage they do. They make winding tunnels through carrots, potatoes and beets, disfiguring them so badly that they are unfit to eat. Young plants can be completely destroyed by the worms and older ones can become stunted or be susceptible to diseases. There are about 350 species of wireworms in the USA and Canada.


Click Beetle AdultAdult wireworms are called click beetles or skip jacks, are slightly over one half inch long, dark in color – usually brown - with strips on their sides. They get their name when the beetles attempt to right themselves after having fallen over on their backs. They fling themselves into the air, most often landing on their hard backs, causing a clicking sound, thus the name. It is believed that many adult click beetles do not feed, and most cannot fly well or long.


Parent click beetles deposit small white eggs, just below the surface in early spring, preferring damp grassy or weedy areas. The larvae emerge about a week later, moving very little during their lifetimes.


Wireworm larvaThe larvae of the click beetle is called a wireworm and can be yellow to dark reddish-brown, sometimes orange in color, an inch or so long with hard segmented bodies and three sets of legs attached just behind the head. The larvae emerge from eggs that are laid just below the soil surface and remain active feeders from between two to six years, depending upon which species of click beetle laid the eggs. Some larvae reach full growth in a year, while others may not mature for as long as six years. For this reason you will find wireworms of all sizes and ages existing in your garden at the same time. It appears that most of the damage is done in the second and later years of their lives.


Wireworm pupaAfter the larvae have finished their life cycle (from two to six years in the larvae state), they form a pupa in the autum, overwinter until the next spring, and emerge as click beetle adults. The pupa appear to resemble embryonic beetles.

Vegetables That Wireworms Like To Eat

Bean seedlings Corn seedlings Pea seedlings Tomato roots
Beet stems Cucumber roots Potato tubers Turnips
Cabbage roots Melon roots Radishes Watermelon roots
Carrots Onion roots Rutabagas


Wireworms like soil with poor drainage and lack of aeration, so add compost to your garden and turn it over from time to time.

If you rototill your garden soil, but don’t plant any crops, the wireworms will try to feed, will find nothing and will starve to death. This might be a nice technique for those of you with larger gardens. Deep cultivation of the soil from mid summer to the first fall frost will kill many click beetle eggs, so you might want to try this. Also, if you till the soil just before winter, you will expose most of the wireworm larvae to cold weather, and they will shortly die.

Use insecticide treated seeds, which tend to repel wireworms.

Diazinon will kill the wireworms, but beneficial earthworms as well, so be careful about using it. Treat the soil one week before planting, working the insecticide into the top six inches of the soil.

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