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How to Make a Wireworm Trap

Update: This post is from May when I found wire worms eating my tomato plants. If I had prepared some traps in March these could have been saved. Plan now, save your plants too. Don’t let the wire worms win.

Finally some nice weather has me outside to check on my newly transplanted early tomatoes and WHAT THE?!

The wilty and pale sad little transplants looked perfectly healthy 2 days ago.

I pulled one up to replace it with a backup and WHAT THE %$^&%$%^&*?!  There’s wire worms eating them from the inside out.

Wire worm and how to make a wireworm trap

I think this one is actually drooling….

Wireworm and how to make a wire worm trap

I dug around in the soil only to find a whole bunch of these ugly critters.  I had planted lettuce transplants early in the season in the same raised bed which all mysteriously disappeared days after planting.  I blamed the slugs.  I killed LOTS of baby slugs to terrify the other hidden slugs.  But could it have been these nasty little wireworms that ate my lettuce?

If you recently transformed a grassy part of your yard to a garden bed (check out Turning Lawn into a Vegetable Garden with Raised Beds) then you may have an abundance of wireworms just waiting for tender seedlings. The best way to remove them is by setting up a wireworm trap. Cut a potato in half and skewer it with a long stick. Bury the potato in the soil (or make a few of these for large beds / lots of wireworms), ensuring that the top of the stick stays above the soil so you can find them. In a week or so, carefully dig up (not pull up) the trap and remove the wireworms. Replace and keep removing the worms until you don’t find them anymore – you are now ready to plant!

About the Author : StephanieAn artistic gardener aiming to feed the body & soul through an urban potager garden & a community veggie plot in Vancouver.View all posts by Stephanie

  1. meemsnyc
    meemsnycMay 18,11

    Ugh, sorry to hear that! How frustrating. I’m not sure, but they do look an awful lot like inch worms?

  2. Stevie
    StevieMay 18,11

    potato wireworms maybe?

  3. Kristi
    KristiMay 18,11

    Oh my goodness, I think he’s mocking you. Grr, is there an organic way to get rid of them?

  4. vivian
    vivianMay 18,11

    Saw this on Victorian Kitchen Garden–you stick a carrot in the soil near the plant you want to protect, and every morning you pull out the carrot, and destroy the wireworms that attached themselves to it. So sad about the tomatoes!

  5. Stevie
    StevieMay 18,11

    Great idea, Vivian! I read somewhere else to use potatoes, but I only had a yam so I have 2 yam halves with skewers through them buried into the soil (skewers so I can easily find and dig them out). This was after I sifted through the soil and handpicked out as many as I can find. I’ll leave the yams until the weekend then try to plant my tomatoes again. Good thing I had backup seedlings!

  6. Dan
    DanMay 18,11

    Nasty little things. I’ve read toilet paper rolls buried around the plant can help with cutworms. Maybe that would help with these things.

  7. Robin
    RobinMay 19,11

    Sorry about the tomato plants. I have never seen that before. Good luck getting rid of them.

  8. Aimee
    AimeeMay 19,11

    Oh no! What a drag, I’m so sorry! It’s too early to have to deal with this level of combat!

    I am glad to see you back in blogging action, though!

    I hope the yam/potato/carrot thing will do the trick. I’m forwarding your post to my “garden guru” friend Bev to see if she has any other info or tricks up her sleeve.

    In the meantime, keep fighting and keep the back-ups handy! (and maybe prep a new pot / container with new potting mix?) Good luck!

  9. Beverly
    BeverlyMay 19,11

    Hello-
    Gory looking little devils!
    Wireworms are larvae of the Click Beetle who behaves like a Mexican Jumping Bean when disturbed. It is a brown,3/4″long, shiny-coated beetle.

    I have also seen the potato idea used against assorted underground assailants, but I don’t know if it’s directed specifically at wireworms. I believe you place a cut potato underground near the afflicted plants and wait a few days. Remove and destroy the potato, then replace it with another.It acts like a “trap crop” except it’s underground. If you forget to remove it, you’ll be growing potatoes as well as over-feeding the pests.

    Planting smaller seedlings with a collar of aluminum foil or cardboard, partially submerged, tends to deter cutworms (not sure about wireworms). I also read that a long, thick pine needle, inserted right against the young stem, prevents the cutworm from getting his body wrapped around the trunk of the seedling to begin the destruction. I have tried this and did not have cutworm damage, but must say they are not prevalent in my gardens. Cutworms often hide nearby, just below the soil surface, and can sometimes be scratched up with a hand cultivator and killed when suspected of causing damage to seedlings.

    Those wireworms may have come with the seedlings from the nursery. (?)

    If you are inundated, perhaps a drench of Beneficial Nematodes may help. They are a natural mercenary organism who go after a few dozen pests including FLEA LARVA. I use them against Iris Borers.

    http://www.arbico-organics.com/category/beneficial-nematodes

    Above is one of several links..

    Good Luck! It’s not too late to seed more tomato plants. You’ll have later fruits, but that’s better than no fruits.

  10. Stacy
    StacyMay 19,11

    Oh my gosh that is so frustrating! I just found aphids all over the place yesterday and feel like I’m at war now. grrr.

  11. Laura
    LauraMay 19,11

    I agree with the consensus,you have yourself some wireworms. They are a weird little worm that when turned upsidedown flip back over with an audible click. The adult form is the click beetle.They cause no damage to the garden. It’s offspring are a different story. The adult lays it’s eggs in the soil, especially around grasses. The larvae then takes 3-6 years to develop to adults. They feed close to the soil surface in spring and move deeper into the soil as it warms. They surface again in the fall, and go deep once more as the soil cools. They can move long distances sideways through the soil as well.

    Wireworms bore into all variety of plants. From tubers, corms, especially large seeds (corn,peas,beans), into the crowns of plants like lettuce. They are particularly damaging to potatoes, dahlia’s, gladiolus and small plants. Large plants may die from disease organisms that enter the damaged roots through the wireworm damage.

    They can be most noticable in the years after sod is first turned to make garden beds. Although the spread of introduced species of wireworms throughout the lower mainland has made them a problem in regularly cultivated soils as well.

    As for prevention:
    -Plant as late a possible in spring to avoid wireworms. Start Dahlias and other susceptible plants in pots and plant them out later.

    - Where they are a serious problem, don’t grow fall rye cover crops, which attract wireworms. Legume cover crops are less attractive to, but can still sustain wireworms.

    - Keep empty garden bed weeded all winter or use leaves, or straw mulch. Empty mulched beds usually have fewer wireworms in the spring than beds with crops or weeds.

    -Plant plenty of extra seed, especially large seeded crop to avoid heartache at the losses from these buggers.

    Control:

    -Physical removal. Turn over the soil in annual beds several times before planting and pick out any wireworms that turn out. They are hard to crush. Warm soapy water is recommended.

    -Traps. The ones mentioned above with carrots and potatoes work well. Use a skewer and place the vegetable chunks a few inches under the soil. Pull the traps every day or two and destroy. Use both potato and carrot, as different species of wireworm have different preferences.

    -Trap crops. There is some success with luring wireworms to germinating seed. Starting with bare soil, thickly sow rows of wheat or barley. Sow the trap seeds 10 days before you want to plant the garden. When the seeds have germinated, pull th seedlings and destroy

    The insect parasitic nematodes available are not effective against wireworms, and I wouldn’t recommend using them in this case.

    All of my info came from the West Coast Gardening: Natural Insect, Weed & Disease Control book by, Linda A. Gilkeson, Ph.D. It is one of the books you will get in the course next year. I think it’s fantastic your going to sign up! Maybe we will get to work on some Master Gardener projects together in the future!

    I hope this helped!

  12. Daphne Gould
    Daphne GouldMay 20,11

    So sorry to hear about your wireworms. I get them on and off in the beds, but never enough of them to do real damage.

  13. Misting System
    Misting SystemMay 26,11

    Poor slugs… always getting blamed for everything! They died in vein!!!! LOL j/k sorry to hear your garden is under attack, I hope the carrot or potato/yam project works out for you!!!!

  14. Casa Mariposa
    Casa MariposaMay 29,11

    What cowardly little bugs!! If they have the nerve to eat your plants, they should be bug enough to do it in broad daylight and from the outside in!! I hope the potato traps work.

  15. Deb W
    Deb WMay 29,11

    Hi Stevie, Nasty little baastids, aren’t they? Sounds like you’ve gotten lots of advice for the wire worms, so how’s about a little for your poor innocent (this time, at least) little slugs? Well, crushed eggshells have worked REALLY well for me. They don’t like the feel on their tender tummy/tootsie. Started saving crushed shells years ago ’cause they’re so darned useful – make sure to rinse them and air-dry thoroughly first. They add some great mineral content back into your soil and, just like in those old “Cowboy Movies”, really work to mellow out the flavour of your coffee too.

    One more suggestion for cutworms… A rusty nail planted up against the stem will thwart the little suckers (and also add iron back into the soil at the same time; )

  16. Deb W
    Deb WMay 29,11

    Hi again, Just did a little digging (sorry, couldn’t resist) on wireworms and came up with this: according to the OMFRA (Ontario Ministry of Farming & Rural Affairs) site, the best defence against wireworm is crop rotation – you know, the old “move things around and don’t come back to the same spot for at least 4 years” method. Hope this helps, D.

  17. Nutty Gnome
    Nutty GnomeMay 31,11

    I can’t help you I’m afraid as I’ve never seen anything like them over here – nasty little buggers though!

    I’ve enjoyed reading your blog …except for the wireworms and the lost tomatoes!

  18. Margo
    MargoJune 16,11

    I have been battling wireworms in my raised garden beds for three years now. What I learned: plant later, pick them and drop them into a half filled soapy water milk jug and keep it handy, squish the parental units when you find them (they will congregate beneath boards laid on grass near your garden), and use old fashioned non-chemical warfare against them: chickens. This year I borrowed three of my parent’s retired laying hens for six weeks prior to planting – they did an excellent job of dining on the wireworms and reduced the population by at least 80%. I am estatic! I have since planted up the garden and veggies are growing gangbusters. Now if only the sun would come out and stay out, we will be fine! One thing I did last year that I would also recommend is the potato or carrot bait and switch trick – it helped along with the hours of picking and dropping into Mr. Soapy Milk Jug. Also, to determine whether my efforts were effective or not, I placed a calendula transplant in the “victimized” bed. When it didn’t grow, I knew I was under seige. At last it took off and doubled in size and I knew I was the victor; until 2011 that is. Now I have little potato sprouts coming up hither and yon around the bed. I just tossed some manure around them (well aged) and planted my edamame seeds around them. Hopefully potatoes will be a lovely accompanyment to the beans! Good luck. Keep at it — that is key — do not give up! Margo’s urban homestead in Victoria BC

  19. Tamara {Delish Mag}
    Tamara {Delish Mag}July 3,11

    Ugh!! Sorry to hear that, Stevie. I’ve just spent the last hour and a bit researching pill bugs as one of my beds has an infestation of them and slugs. Ripped out a whole patch of lettuce that had eggs in it from some creature, maybe either of those. It was way out of control and had bolted because I haven’t been making enough salad, and I have a second patch so I am not too worried about the lettuce, but I’m worried about the strawberries, carrots, onions, leeks, chives, tomatoes and peas that are left in that box!

    The leaves nearest the ground (of the pea especially) are being nibbled on. Little jerks!!

    Good luck!

    Tamara

    PS Delish Summer issue should be done THIS WEEK!

  20. Casa Mariposa
    Casa MariposaJuly 21,11

    Those same little nasty creeps ate my dahlias and some of my cosmos. I squished as many as I could find and while the cosmos died, the dahlais rebounded. Good luck and happy squishing!

  21. Melanie
    MelanieJuly 23,11

    UGH. Great post Stevie. I’ve learned lots by reading the comments. :) I hope the worms are all gone by now and your tomato plants are huge healthy and full of fruit.

  22. Gregory
    GregoryDecember 11,13

    In the Southern Tier are in great shape for fishing hats fishing, but handle these prize
    fish with care and release them safely so they’ll be able to assume that aroma.

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