Document Type


Publication Date



Entomology Zoology Department

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wireworms, entomology, insecticides


Wireworms (Elateridae) may be recognized because of their resemblance to a short piece of shiny copper or bronze wire. In color, most wireworms vary from light yellow to a light; or even dark brown. The body is long and worm-like, cylindrical or flattened, and covered by a comparatively hard skin. Three pairs of short legs are present on that part of the body immediately back of the head. Most of the native wireworms when fullgrown, measure from ½ to 1 ¼ of an inch in length. An occasional species measures more than 1 ½ inches. Wireworms are classed as destructive because they feed on living plants. Usually the portions of the plants that are attacked are in the soil, such as planted seed, germinating seed, roots, crowns, tubers, bulbs, corms, stems, etc., but sometimes the wireworms may work their way up inside the stems of plants a short distance above the surface of the ground. Unsprouted seed, germinating seed, and young plants suffer more damage than do older plants. In completing their life cycle, wireworms (Elateridae) pass through four radically different stages, namely, egg, larva or wireworm, pupa, and beetle. The beetles are the adult insects, commonly known as elater-beetles, click beetles, snapping beetles, or skip-jacks, from their habit of making a clicking noise when they throw themselves in the air after falling, or being placed on their backs. The duration of the life cycle of the various species is by no means identical. Some species complete their entire life cycle in one year, while others require as much as five years. The eggs of most of the wireworms are laid in the spring by beetles that hibernated over the winter, but there are some that lay their eggs in the fall of the year. In the latter case, the eggs hatch later in the fall, and the young wireworms hibernate. Pupation takes place usually late in the summer or early fall, and the pupal stage extends over a period of three or four weeks. Nearly 7000 species of Elateridae have been recorded in the world, and of these, about 700 are found in America, north of Mexico. Sixty species and varieties have been found in South Dakota.










South Dakota State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, Agricultural Experiment Station