The Q&A Archives: Worms in potatoes

Question: This past year when I harvested my Irish potatoes, I found 1/2 long worms in many of the tubers. What are these worms, and how do I control them? George Gatbright Savannah, GA

Answer: Your potatoes are infected with the larval form of either the wireworm or white fringed beetle, says Wayne McLaurin, Extension vegetable specialist at the University of Georgia in Athens. Without looking at the larvae under a microscope, you can't tell the two apart. Both insects have one generation a year in the North, but since the soil rarely freezes in the Savannah area, there are many overlapping generations. Adult beetles begin emerging from the soil in April or May and lay eggs on plants andgarden debris in the soil. The eggs hatch within two weeks and larvae begin tunneling through the soil searching for seeds, tubers and roots on which to feed. To control wireworms and white fringed beetles, don't plant potatoes or other tuber forming crops in infected soil for two to three years, says McLaurin. Till the garden in the late summer to expose any larvae to predators and the weather. Wireworms can also be trapped using potatoes. Cut potatoes in half, sticking them cut end down an inch in the soil and removing and discarding after two days.

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