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Wireworms in Texas High Plains cottonWireworms in Texas High Plains cotton

What are wireworms? How do they damage the cotton before it emerges from the soil?

May 11, 2018

2 Min Read
Wireworm larvaePat Porter

What are wireworms?

Wireworms are a common cotton pest which feed on germinating seeds and emerging seedlings. Two types of wireworms feed on cotton: true wireworms and false wireworms. True wireworms, commonly called click beetles, are members of the Elateridae family, while false wireworms, or darkling beetles, are from the Tenebrionidae family.

Darkling beetle



Overwintering larvae inflict the most damage as they become active in the spring. The larvae damage cotton by feeding on the root, hypocotyl (stem of the germinating seedling), and cotyledon (seed leaves) of plants before emerging from the soil. Root feeding can kill plants and reduce plant stand but usually results in stunting.

Click beetle


It’s hard to find crop worms that you can’t see! The soil-dwelling habit of larvae makes it very challenging to scout for. Baits with a mixture of either wheat grain or oatmeal and honey may help detect the presence of wireworms in a field.


There are no rescue treatments. Minimize wireworm infestations through clean cultivation and fallowing. Infestations are most severe in no-tillage or reduced-tillage situations, particularly following grain crops. Planting shallow and under warm conditions allows cotton seeds to germinate rapidly and plants to outgrow wireworms. Insecticidal seed treatments and/or at plant insecticides are the most effective means of minimizing wireworm damage. 

Can compost application make problem worst?

No, unless the compost is carrying any wireworms or their eggs. In general, compost can provide a better environment for wireworms that already exists in the field but there are little or no data available on this.                             

Need more info?

Access our online fact sheet on wireworms at: http://agrilife.org/lubbock/files/2017/05/Wireworms_ENTO-068.pdf  .

Source: Texas A&M AgriLife Extension


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