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How to get rid of wireworms in potatoes

Get rid of wireworms in potatoes

Do Potatoes and Carrots Have Wireworms? Here's how to remove them. If you see small, dry, round holes in your tubers, look more closely and you may be spotting potato wireworms. Wireworms can cause significant damage to a garden, but they are particularly attracted to potatoes, carrots, and corn.

How can you tell if you have wireworms? What to do if you find them? For that matter, what are they? Glad you asked!

What are wireworms?

Wireworms are the larvae of click beetles. There are several types of wireworms, but for our purposes, there isn't much difference in how we approach the problem.

The entire life cycle of a wireworm is 2 to 6 years. One reason they survive so long is that most of their lives are spent in the larval stage, underground. In fact, wireworms can burrow two feet or more into the ground in winter.

Older wireworms are up to an inch long, hard, yellow to rusty in color.

Although adult click beetles won't damage your crops, wireworms in potatoes or other root crops mean you're in for some trouble. In addition to direct damage to potatoes, they can also damage seeds and young root systems, resulting in poor plant growth.

To add insult to injury, the holes they bore into potatoes make the vegetable susceptible to diseases or other pests.

Are there wireworms in potatoes? Here's what to do.

If you find wireworms on potatoes or other vegetables in your garden, all is not lost. But I warn you that wireworms can be difficult to manage because they burrow deep into the soil. However, you have some options.

Your best bet is to plant your garden as far away from an area where you know wireworms are present. In addition, the Rutgers Cooperative Research and Extension notes that you should "avoid planting a garden on soil that was previously grassy or unproductive. Wireworms develop in grassy areas, and when the grassy area is replaced with garden crops, wireworms readily eat the roots of the new crops.

They also recommend plowing in the fall to expose wireworms to birds and other potential predators that normally can't reach them.

The University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program adds: "Avoid planting potatoes in fields immediately following clover, grass, pasture or weedy alfalfa. Summer fallow will reduce wireworm populations by drying out the soil. In fact, you can help the drying process with solarization, which does double duty." Do the job and kill any weed seeds. Water the soil deeply in the hottest part of summer and cover it with clear plastic.

Another solution? Create bait traps by digging several small holes in your garden and filling them with carrots, freshly cut seed potato pieces, or a mixture of soaked seeds such as wheat and oats. Cover the holes and the surrounding soil with a sheet of black plastic. After four or five days, inspect the baited holes for wireworms and discard them by hand.

Finally, some soil-applied or seed-treated insecticides may help control wireworm infestations. Contact your local county Cooperative Extension office for a list of recommended pesticides suitable for home gardens in your area.


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