Agriculture: Potato Pest Management Guidelines


  • Dryland wireworm: Ctenicera pruinina
  • Pacific coast wireworm (Click beetle): Limonius canus
  • Sugarbeet wireworm: Limonius californicus
  • Description of the Pest

    Wireworms are the soil-dwelling larvae of click beetles. Several wireworm species occur in western potato soils, but the most common are the Pacific coast wireworm, the sugarbeet wireworm, and the dryland wireworm. Several species of the genus Conoderus have also been encountered in some production areas.

    Adult wireworms are slender, reddish brown to black click beetles that are 0.25 to 0.5 inch long. The larvae are wirelike, having hard bodies that are slender, cylindrical, yellowish to brown in color, and about 0.75 inch long when full grown. Common wireworm species require 3 to 4 years to complete their life cycle. Most of the time is spent in the larval stage, but all stages may be present at once during the growing season.


    Adults do not damage potatoes, but the larvae, or wireworms, may damage seed pieces and young root systems during stand establishment, resulting in poor stands. More commonly the damage is seen as shallow to deep holes in the potatoes, caused by wireworms burrowing into the tuber while feeding. Wireworms bore perpendicularly or diagonally to depths up to 0.5 inch, but do not tunnel all the way through the tuber.


    The best time to manage wireworms is before planting. Check for wireworms by observing the field during plowing or discing, or by baiting. If wireworms are present, monitor by taking soil samples to determine the need to treat.

    Cultural Control

    In recent years, wireworms have been most common in the northern mountain areas in fields that have been in weedy alfalfa or pasture for several years before potatoes. Avoid planting potatoes in fields immediately following clover, grass, pasture, or weedy alfalfa. Summer fallow will reduce wireworm numbers by drying the soil.

    Organically Acceptable Methods

    Use cultural controls on an organically certified potato.

    Monitoring and Treatment Decisions

    The most direct way to detect wireworms in a field is by general observation during plowing or discing of a field, particularly where old alfalfa, clover, or pasture is being taken out. Wireworms can also be detected by baiting, using carrots, packets of untreated corn and/or wheat seed, or ground whole wheat flour, provided they are used when soil temperatures are 50°F at 4 to 6 inches deep. Baiting does not give a good estimation of the density of the population. If baiting shows the presence of wireworms, take soil samples to estimate the wireworm density. Use a 6-inch post hole digger and a shaker/sifter to sample. Take samples in spring when soil temperatures are 45°F or higher at the 6-inch level or in late summer at the 18-inch level. The following guide is used in some production areas.

    Acres in field Number of soil samples Treatment threshold (# of wireworms)
    10 30 1
    22 45 2
    40 60 2
    90 90 4
    160 120 5

    Preplant broadcast treatments have provided adequate control in limited field tests conducted in California. Band treatments are used in some areas, but have not been evaluated under California conditions. In areas where potatoes are planted in late fall and winter, soil-applied insecticides tend to break down before wireworms become active when the soil warms in spring.

    Common name Amount per acre** REI‡ PHI‡
    (Example trade name) (hours) (days)
    Not all registered pesticides are listed. The following are ranked with the pesticides having the greatest IPM value listed first—the most effective and least harmful to natural enemies, honey bees, and the environment are at the top of the table. When choosing a pesticide, consider information relating to air and water quality, resistance management, and the pesticide's properties and application timing. Always read the label of the product being used.
      (Admire Pro) 5.7–8.7 fl oz 12 NA
      COMMENTS: Apply to soil following label directions. Do not exceed 8.7 fl oz/acre/crop.
      (Cruiser Maxx Potato) Label rates 12 NA
      COMMENTS: Read label for rotational restrictions following the application of this material.
      (Mocap) Label rates 72 NA
      COMMENTS: Broadcast or spray on soil and thoroughly work into the soil to a depth of 2 to 4 inches before planting. Soil temperature must be 50°F or higher when ethoprop is applied. May also be applied at planting or before crop emergence.
    ** See label for dilution rates.
    Restricted entry interval (REI) is the number of hours (unless otherwise noted) from treatment until the treated area can be safely entered without protective clothing. Preharvest interval (PHI) is the number of days from treatment to harvest. In some cases the REI exceeds the PHI. The longer of two intervals is the minimum time that must elapse before harvest.
    NA Not applicable
    * Permit required from county agricultural commissioner for purchase or use.
    1 Rotate chemicals with a different mode-of-action group number, and do not use products with the same mode-of-action group number more than twice per season to help prevent the development of resistance. For example, the organophosphates have a group number of 1B; chemicals with a 1B group number should be alternated with chemicals that have a group number other than 1B. Mode of action group numbers are assigned by IRAC (Insecticide Resistance Action Committee).
    Text Updated: 04/19
    Treatment Table Updated: 04/19