Wireworm samples wanted

Prairie farmers are asked to send samples of wireworms to researchers looking for an effective way to control this growing pest problem.


Alberta Agriculture crop specialist Neil Whatley said wireworm numbers have steadily increased in prairie soil since the federal government banned lindane in 2004. 


There are more than 30 species of wireworm in Canada, each with different behaviour and life cycles


Agriculture Canada researchers want to know what system or combination of systems will work best to control the pest.


“A single control measure might not work,” said Whatley, who hopes farmers will play an active role in finding a control by sending samples of wireworms from their area.


Wireworm larvae feed on plant roots and germinating seeds for three to five years before developing into the adult click beetle stage.


Seed treatments such as Cruiser Maxx and Raxil WW repel wireworms but don’t kill them, and the wireworms continue to thrive.


Wireworm research is led by Agriculture Canada researchers Bob Vernon and Win van Herk in Agassiz, where they are identifying wireworm species and developing control methods.


Wireworms shred or poke holes in the seedlings below the soil surface, which produces a patchy, thin crop.


Farmers can bait wireworms by burying a cup of a cereal crop 10 to 15 centimetres into the soil in spring. They should dig up the bait two weeks later and search for wireworms and their tunnels. 


The final step is to collect the wireworms and some of the soil and mail them in a plastic container to Agriculture and Agrifood Canada, 6947 Highway 7, Box 1000, Agassiz, B.C. V0M 1A0.


Farmers should also send a brief description of where the wireworms were found and a history of the field.

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