Wireworms and woodworms

by Richard Jones

Wireworms are the tough leathery larvae of click beetles, slim, smooth brown beetles that snap their bodies at the waist...

Picture of a wirewormThree out of the 16 raised beds up at the allotment are now looking a bit neater, thanks to the surplus pallet timber supplied by our neighbours. The beds were certainly due for an overhaul. The lower parts of the previous planks had turned to dark sodden sponge in the four or five years they have been embedded in the moist soil. Our plot is at the bottom of a gentle slope, and since this is heavy London clay, we are lucky as the lower beds are very rarely in danger of drought, even in mid summer. But the damp soil takes its toll on our woodwork.

After comments on the last blog, I thought it might be useful to post a photograph of a real wireworm (above). Wireworms are the tough leathery larvae of click beetles, slim, smooth brown beetles that snap their bodies at the waist, creating an audible click and jerking them airborne, spinning out of the way as an escape strategy. These supposedly notorious root-crop pests are not common up at the allotment. I don’t think we have enough root crops for them. This is probably not one of the soil-dwelling species, and is more likely one of the very many others that breed in dead wood, fallen branches, logs, tree stumps and sodden raised bed timbers. A gentle recycler, rather than a potato fiend.

Picture of Euophryum confineAlong with it was a small (3-4mm) narrow woodworm weevil, Euophryum confine. There seems to be no common English name for this insect, other than ‘wood weevil’, even though it is one of the commonest domestic woodworms in the country. Perhaps this is because it was only found in Britain in 1937, and not properly identified until 1948. It's a native of New Zealand, and likely arrived in wooden casks, packing cases or other imported wood. Unlike the usual domestic ‘woodworm’ beetles, it will not attack sound timber, but only feeds in planks that have become perennially damp and infected with fungus or mould. Our raised beds were the perfect habitat.

The new beds are now looking very smart, ready to receive this year’s produce. The mouldering timber has been dumped beside the compost heap to see what else it can provide shelter for during the rest of the year.

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Gardeners' World Web User 05/08/2011 at 20:44

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Gardeners' World Web User 28/11/2011 at 18:43

I heard on the radio today that Purple Sprouting Broccoli crops were suffering because of the cold weather, could this be why mine have no signs of any sprouts yet or do I just need a bit more more patience.