How to Manage Wireworms in Wheat

FBN Network

Oct 20, 2023

Wireworms, the larvae of click beetles, feed on the roots and underground stems of wheat plants. Leading to stunted growth, reduced plant vigor, and potential pathogen entry points for secondary infections, these pests can result in lower yields and financial losses. 

Learning how to scout for, identify, and treat wireworms through effective management strategies and products can help control wireworm populations and minimize their negative impacts on wheat crops.

This guide will outline: 

  • How to identify wireworms

  • Regions affected by wireworms

  • Timing of wireworm activity

  • How to manage wireworms

How to Identify Wireworms

Because they spend most of their life cycle hidden beneath the soil, wireworms can often be challenging to identify. However, there are several key characteristics that can assist in identifying their presence. 

Wireworms are slender and cylindrical, with a hard, shiny, copper-brown exoskeleton. Their size can vary, ranging from 1/4 to 1 inch in length, depending on their age. When disturbed, they tend to assume a distinct "C" shape, resembling a wire (thus their name).

Given that wireworm damage often resembles that caused by other pests or environmental factors, wireworm detection can also sometimes prove challenging. To scout for wireworms, look out for: 

  • Wilting or yellowing plants

  • Uneven stands in a wheat field

  • Small holes or tunnels in the roots or underground stems

  • The presence of adult click beetles in the vicinity of the wheat field

[RELATED: Using a Fungicide to Protect Your Wheat Crop]

Regions Affected by Wireworms

Wireworms are commonly found in areas with heavy clay or loam soils. In North America, wireworms are particularly prevalent in the Pacific Northwest, the Midwest, and the Great Plains. However, wireworms can be present in any region where wheat is grown. 

Timing of Wireworm Activity

Wireworms are most active during the early stages of the wheat growing season, from late winter to early spring when the soil temperature reaches around 50°F (10°C). This critical period is when wireworms pose the greatest threat to a wheat crop. 

Steve L. Brown, University of Georgia,

How to Manage Wireworms

Before considering chemical treatments, first assess the severity of the wireworm infestation. Integrated pest management strategies such as crop rotation, trap crops, and biological controls can go a long way in managing wireworm populations effectively. 

Rotating crops and incorporating trap crops into a rotation plan can help disrupt the wireworm life cycle and reduce their numbers. Additionally, introducing biological controls, such as beneficial nematodes or entomopathogenic fungi, can provide natural enemies to help control wireworm populations. 

Seed-applied neonicotinoid insecticides containing imidacloprid* or thiamethoxam can slow insect feeding when plants are most vulnerable to damage. Broflanilide, a newer chemistry class, may be more effective at managing wireworms in wheat when applied as a seed treatment. 

Carefully read and follow product labels to ensure proper application rates and timing, maximize efficacy, and minimize potential negative impacts on the environment. 

Wireworm Crop Protection from FBN Direct®

Proactively scouting for and responding to pest presence in your fields will help reduce potential crop damage and improve yield. FBN Direct has a wide variety of effective insecticides to help address pest pressures and keep your operation on track. With transparent pricing, straightforward online ordering, detailed product labels and fast direct-to-farm delivery, FBN Direct can help you get the products you need to protect your crops. 

Related Resources

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ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW LABEL DIRECTIONS. It is a violation of federal and state law to use any pesticide product other than in accordance with its label. The distribution, sale and use of an unregistered pesticide is a violation of federal and/or state law and is strictly prohibited. We do not guarantee the accuracy of any information provided on this page or which is provided by us in any form. It is your responsibility to confirm prior to purchase and use that a product is labeled for your specific purposes, including, but not limited to, your target crop or pest and its compatibility with other products in a tank mix and that the usage of a product is otherwise consistent with federal, state and local laws.  We reserve the right to restrict sales on a geographic basis in our sole discretion. You must have a valid applicator license to use restricted use pesticides.  Please consult your state department of agriculture for complete rules and regulations on the use of restricted use pesticides, as some products require specific record-keeping requirements.

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