The Q&A Archives: Something chewing my bush bean seeds

Question: Last spring only a few of my bush beans had sprouted after two weeks in the ground. When I dug in the rows, I found a few not yet sprouted seeds that seemed to have been chewed. What caused my problem and how do I avoid it in the future? George Elliston Wilmington, DE

Answer: Your crop has seed corn maggot, says David Tatnall, New Castle County Extension garden specialist in Newark, Delaware. Despite its name, this common garden pest causes more problems on beans and peas than it does on corn. Most damage is done in earlyspring (April here in Delaware) when the soil is still cool and moist. The adult flies emerge from the soil as the weather first warms and lay eggs on decaying vegetation. Larvae emerge from these eggs two to seven days later and burrow into the soilto feed on seeds. The 1/4 long, yellowish white maggots favor soil with high organic matter and are usually active for two to three weeks, while the soil is still cool, says Tatnall. Seed corn maggots may have three to five generations a year, but thefirst generation is the most damaging. The best way to avoid damage is to delay planting until the soil has warmed above 60oF and to plant seeds shallowly for quicker germination. Once seeds have germinated, the maggots don't cause as much harm, says Tatnall.

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