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Wireworms? What’s up with those?


Worry not, wireworm identification just got easier!

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has released the Guide to Pest Wireworms in Canadian Prairie Field Crop Production. With this field guide, you’ll be able to easier identify wireworm damage in your fields, develop strategy plans to mitigate the damage, and better protect your field!

What are wireworms?

wireworm feature
Main pest wireworm species on the Canadian Prairies: larval stages (top), adult (click beetle) stages (bottom). Photos: J. Saguez, CÉROM
wireworm damage
Close up view of wireworm feeding damage on cereal seedlings. Stems can be shredded, severed, tunneled, or deformed. Photo: Mike Dolinski

Soil-dwelling insects that have burdened crop producers since farming began in the Canadian Prairies. The larva of click beetle, wireworm, damages crops, feeding on the seeds, roots, and lower stem of the crop. While no crop is safe, wireworms prefer cereals over others.

Since wireworms are often the sole reason for growers to use insecticide-treated seeds, a greater understanding of these pests can lead to cost-saving practices, ala reducing unnessary pesticide use.

While wireworms are a natural part of the Prairie ecosystem, only native wireworm species are crop pests. The Prairie grain wireworm is one of the two species identified as a widespread major pest.

Unlike their larva, the adult click beetle itself causes no damage. Typically, wireworm damage appears as hollowed-out seeds, shredded or tunneled stems. Damage from larval feeding reduces yield by killing young plants (crop thinning) or stunting older plants.

Young plants affected by larval damage will often wilt, with yellowing and wilting centre leaves.

Besides direct yield loss, the crop thinning and bare spots caused by the larval feeding can lead to failing weed management. This can extend out to impede other agronomic factors.

You can download the guide from the Government of Canada website; soon they will release hard copies to make identifying wireworms that much easier!