We have wireworms. I had several lettuces that were doing fine one day and the next day suddenly collapsed and died. They appeared slightly wilted and then were dead. This happened about three times and each time I was more confused than the last. I mean, everything else in that garden bed was doing fine, they were all getting watered equally. I was completely boggled, I mean…they were doing wonderful, growing, looking healthy and vibrant and then… bam! Flat, wilted and dead.
I decided this couldn’t go on and there must be something going on.I dug the most recently deceased up a bit ago and found wire worms in the roots and on one in the lettuce stem. So, what proceeded next, would never, ever, ever happen on a production scale farm. It is way too labor intensive. I proceeded to dig out each lettuce I had planted, search its little patch for wireworms, feed the wire worms I found to my chickens and replant. Each lettuce. All of them.
I doubt I got them all but I feel better knowing the cause. I will let the chickens have at that garden bed come fall and hopefully they’ll eat up the nasty little buggers.
What are Wireworms?
They are the immature larva of click beetles. These beetles are the common, plain black beetles gardeners and children often stumble across. The adults are not problematic, but the larva can indeed be a problem. They are most problematic with beans, corn, grain and other annuals. They can be responsible for poor germination (because they ate the seeds) or the death of young seedlings, as I saw with my lettuce plants.
They are most commonly found in areas that used to be sod or grasses, which explains why I found so many… since this lettuce bed was grass last year. They take up to 6 years to mature, so this can be an on-going problem. There are no real methods for dealing with them organically.
I have seen references to using potatoes as traps and then discarding the wireworms you catch. Wild birds will eat them, but if the area is heavily infested it won’t reduce levels significantly enough. Digging them out when you see them, is probably the most labor intensive and surely I missed some, but I don’t think I have a very heavy infestation.
Having the chickens go through and dig them out might be the best combination of the methods.
I refuse to use chemical controls unless it means my family will starve and there are no chemical pesticides approved for home use to address wireworms, so that’s out anyhow.