This is probably the most disgusting thing I have ever encountered in the garden. I can put up with spiders and caterpillars and other creepy crawlers as most of them are good bugs. There is nothing worse than digging up some fresh new potatoes from the garden and seeing four little larvae looking at me. It tops the cake for really creeping me out.
So what are they? These are wireworms which are the larvae of the click beetle. Yes, these little critters have three generations a year beginning in June. They are nasty. Wireworms are commonly found in grassy areas living in the soil. That I don’t mind so much. It’s when they get into my potatoes, it’s an all out war.
So why are they in the vegetable garden? If the area where you built your garden was just grass, like mine was, the chances of having wireworms are there. It’s important to weed your vegetable bed of any grass weeds throughout the season. Wireworms love potatoes. It is said to use a cut potato on top of your beds to catch the wireworms. So imagine how they looked at my buffet dinner of new potatoes underground. If you look closely at the potato it has telltale tiny holes all over the skin where the larvae have tunneled. The larva is the damaging stage. They bore into crops causing stunting, death or inedible vegetables.
How do we get rid of them? For one thing make sure to rotate your crops each year so that you don’t plant anything from the potato family in the same bed. That means practicing good crop rotation. I also harvested potatoes in mid June that hadn’t been affected by wireworms. So perhaps plant an early season potato and harvest before the first generation of wireworm is present. I am kicking myself now for not harvesting all the potatoes back in June but who knew? It’s a lesson learned, that’s for sure.
Wireworms have a three to five-year life cycle. They also like certain soil temperatures. When the soil warms up in late summer the wireworms head deep into the soil below. I found lots of information about control on page 14 at this link from the Oregon state university. Oops, the link will redirect you but it’s there.