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True wireworms

Grower, Mark Day, has observed reasonably high numbers of wireworm larvae in two paddocks north of Lockhart, in the Riverina district of New South Wales. The paddocks have only recently been sown; one to canola and the other to wheat. Mark says wireworms have not previously been a pest, and thus far, has not observed any feeding damage.

Wireworms (Family: Elateridae) are the larvae of several species of Australian native beetles, commonly called ‘click’ beetles. The beetles are small- to medium-sized beetles with elongated, flattened bodies that have blunt rounded ends. Larvae grow to 15–40 mm, are soft-bodied, flattened and slow moving grubs. Their body colour ranges from creamy yellow in the most common species to reddish-brown. Their heads are usually dark brown and wedge-shaped. Wireworms are often confused with another group of beetles called false wireworms (Family: Tenebrionidae).

Wireworms attack cereals, oilseeds and grain legumes. It is reported that wireworm problems are often associated with stubble retention and trash from previous crops, which is believed to provide a refuge that favours survival and breeding. Early detection of true and false wireworms is important. Once feeding damage has become obvious it is often too late to implement effective control. Foliar applications can be used for partial control of some species of false wireworms that feed above ground. In paddocks with a history of wireworm problems, cultivation before seeding may reduce pest pressure. Rotations, including continuous cropping or short pasture phases will often limit population increases.

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