news, features, articles and disease information for the crop industry

False Wireworm

┬ęKansas State University Research and Extension


Larvae are shiny, cylindrical, dark brown to black in color, have three pairs of legs near the head, and are about twice the overall size of a wireworm. The front pair of legs is larger on false wireworms when compared to true wireworms.

Adults are large (about 1 inch in length), dark-colored, long-legged beetles that often can be seen running over the ground and hiding under litter in continuous wheat fields. Adults vary in appearance and size. Most species have antennae with eleven segments. Adults have 5 tarsal segments on the first 2 pairs of legs and only 4 tarsal segments on the third pair. The wing covers may be ridged, smooth or granulate, and are fused together so the adults can't fly. When disturbed, the adults have a peculiar habit of placing their head near the ground and elevating their abdomen in the air as if they were trying to stand on their head. The larvae closely resemble wireworms in appearance, slender with noticeable segments, but they have longer leg and antennae than true wireworm larvae. The larvae range from yellowish-brown to nearly black, depending on the species.

Damage Symptoms:

The larvae feed on the seed and below-ground parts of plants. Adults (darkling beetles) feed on plants above the ground. With wheat, they usually attack the seed before germination. In dry soils, one larva may follow the drill row and destroy several seeds by eating out the germ causing bare patches in the field. Characteristic damage is seed with the ends nibbled on and the germ removed. Losses can be severe when persistent dry weather in the fall delays sprouting. False wireworms pupate in earthen cells in the soil. The adults can live up to three years.


To detect problems before planting, sample five to 10 places in a field by sifting 1 square foot of soil dug to a depth of 4 inches through a piece of hardware cloth with 1/4-inch mesh. An average density of one larva per 3 square feet, suggests an infestation of economic importance.


Neither stage of this insect usually causes economic damage. No rescue treatments are available for control of infestations in established crops.

A cropping system of wheat following wheat favors an increase in infestation by the hessian fly, the false wire-worm, the winter grain mite, the wheat jointworm, the wheat stem saw-fly, and the wheat strawworm. Legumes or sorghum are recommended to break the cycle for the false wireworm.


North Dakota State University
Kansas State University

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