Family: Elateridae (Wireworms)
Who: Though the larvae are known as wireworms, adult insects in the family Elateridae are known as click beetles. The larvae are usually around 1 to 1.5 inches long and slender, with a tough exoskeleton. There are three pairs of legs located right behind their head, and they’re often a pale yellow to red/brown in color. The adults are about .5 to 1 inch in length, brown to black, and bullet-shaped. Their most distinguishing characteristic is their ability to “click” when threatened. When they use this mechanism, they can also spring into the air.
What: Though the adults are known to feed on a wide variety of plant matter, it is the larvae of some species that are damaging to tomatoes. The wireworms spend their time in the soil, feeding on seedlings, roots, and other plant matter. They can decimate crops before the plants even get started.
When: These are generally active during growing seasons, especially during the warmer months.
Where: Worldwide, except Antarctica.
Why: Though tomatoes are not always number one on their preferred host plant list, they can be attracted to them.
How: Monitoring is the best way to prevent infestations. You can bury pieces of carrot about 3 inches below the soil. Check for small, burrowing holes weekly. You can even use this method to manage populations by destroying the bait stations since carrots (as well as beans, corn, and potatoes) are the preferred crops of many wireworms. Rotating crops is the best way to prevent future infestations. Unfortunately, pesticides are the only known method of control—and this is only in commercial applications, not for home use. Check with your local extension office for approved pesticides in your area, and use only in extreme situations.
Lauren’s Notes: Not all click beetles are pests as larvae. Many species are actually beneficial because they feed on decaying matter, which greatly helps in the decomposition process. Many are even quite beautiful in color as adults!