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True and false wireworms

There have been several recent reports of false wireworms (F: Tenebrionidae) and true wireworms (F: Elateridae). Consultant, Luke Maher (AgriVision), has observed large numbers of true wireworm larvae in several barley, oat and vetch paddocks north of Boort, in the Mallee district of Victoria. Luke says there is currently little evidence of feeding damage as the crops emerge but he will continue to monitor the paddocks over the next few weeks. True wireworm larvae have also been identified for agronomist, Alexandra Murray (Thompsons Rural Supplies). The larvae have been observed in a wheat paddock near Young, in the South West Slopes district of New South Wales. They are chewing on the roots of seedlings, causing wilting and plant death in some patches of the paddock.

Agronomist, David Strahorn (Furneys CRT), has reported severe feeding damage to canola crops west of Gilgandra, in the Central West Slopes and Plains district of New South Wales. Although the species remain unknown, it is likely that false wireworms are causing this damage. Upon closer inspection of the paddocks, David has found very high numbers of hard-bodied, elongated and cylindrical larvae. These larvae are approximately 10mm in length and dark yellow in colour. They are chewing through the tap-root just below the ground, killing the emerging canola seedlings.

True wireworms are the larvae of several species of Australian native beetles commonly called ‘click’ beetles. The larvae grow between 15-40 mm in length, are soft-bodied, flattened and slow moving. True wireworms feed on underground roots, seeds and stems. They are largely confined to cereals, although larvae are occasionally reported in pulse crops and canola. Like false wireworms, problems with true wireworms are often associated with stubble retention and trash from previous crops, which is believed to provide a refuge that favours survival and breeding.

False wireworms attack a variety of crops including cereals and canola, and are mostly found in paddocks with high amounts of stubble and trash. The larvae are relatively fast moving, have a pair of prominent spines on the last body segment and vary in colour from cream-yellow to brown-grey. They generally grow between 10-50 mm long, and have a hardened cylindrical body. False wireworms attack germinating seeds and chew on seedling stems and roots, weakening or ring-barking the plant. There are a large number of false wireworm species, which are similar in appearance. The most common broad-acre pests in Victoria and New South Wales are the grey false wireworm, the eastern false wireworm, the bronzed field beetle and the vegetable beetle.

To learn more about wireworms, including identification and control, visit the pestIQ website. pestIQ provides detailed information, descriptions and photos for the major true and false wireworm species.

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