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False wireworms

False wireworms (Family: Tenebrionidae) have been identified for consultant, Matt McLoughlan (JSA Independent), who found the grubs in a wheat crop east of Warracknabeal, in the Wimmera district of Victoria. Matt reported that the damage was severe, with evidence of larvae chewing on plant roots and shoots. Damage was typically concentrated along drill rows, where larvae could be easily found upon close inspection.

False wireworms may affect all winter-sown crops and are mostly found in paddocks with high stubble and crop litter contents. There are a large and varied number of species, including the grey false wireworm, the eastern false wireworm and the southern false wireworm. Species are similar in appearance with larvae generally growing between 10-50 mm long, with a hardened cylindrical body. They are relatively fast moving and golden brown to black-brown or grey in colour. They have a pair of prominent spines on the last body segment. 

False wireworm larvae chew into the seedling stem and roots, weakening the plant or ring-barking the stem. The injury to the seedlings makes them susceptible to dehydration and infection by disease. Feeding damage is often most severe when germination is slowed by continued dry weather. There is evidence suggesting that stubble retention and minimum tillage are contributing to the build-up of false wireworm populations in southeastern Australia.

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