Root maggots are garden pests that can be excessively destructive. These pests eat and destroy root systems of plants, which cause the slow and irregular growth of your crops, sometimes even killing it. They are particularly active and othersome during early season plants.
They are often unseen and thrive underground to feed on the root systems of a variety of vegetative crops such as cage, radiates, turnips, carrots, and onions. Plants infested with root maggots will appear yellowish, stunted, and will sometimes wilt during the day when the sunlight is at its peak. Root maggots leave burrowing holes as they feed on the plants, which make the crops susceptible to rot diseases such as black rot.
How to Identify Maggots of the Root of Your Vegetables
Adult maggots are dark gray flies that look similar to a common housefly, only smaller. Measuring about 1/5 of an inch in length, they lay eggs in the soil at the base of their preferred host plants. The maggots hatching from the laid eggs appear yellowish-white, like legless larvae. They have a blunt tail end and a tapered or pointed head.
Root Maggot Life Cycle
Root maggots spend their winter in pupal cocoons. Adults will first emerge in the early spring from the pupal cocoons and will soon begin to mate. Female maggots lay their eggs in plant stems at the soil line or in a crack in the soil close to the plant stems, having about 50 to 200 eggs at a time.
The eggs will hatch within a few days and the newly born maggots will then tunnel their way down into the soil where they will eat the roots, root hairs, and germinating seeds. They will continue to feed on the crops for about one to three weeks before going into the pupal stage to mature as adults. Numerous generations are produced within a year.
How to Control Root Maggots
Floating row covers – When the time comes to lay eggs, the female flies are drawn to the moisture in newly planted seed rows. The new seedbeds should be covered, ensuring that coverage extends to at least 6 inches on each side of the seed rows. This will keep the mature female flies from getting in to lay their eggs.
Paper collars – In transplanting plants, you can use a heavy paper collar around the base of the plants to keep female maggots from laying eggs around the stem.
Beneficial nematodes – The tiny parasites called nematodes live naturally in soil. These beneficial insects can be purchased online or in gardening stores. Nematodes are safe for plants, people, and pets but will definitely destroy maggots and other garden pests . These microscopic insects will help safeguard your garden for up to 18 months.
Pyrethrin spray – A natural insecticide called pyrethrin is derived from the chrysanthemum flower. It is a highly effective insecticide in battling against root maggots and adult flies. In order to optimize the use of this insecticide, the soil should be soaked well.
Rototiller – Upon harvesting crops, use a rototiller to eliminate and bury leftover crop debris. This will remove any food substance for maggots and will destroy any sites and cocoons that may still exist in the soil.
If left unchecked, root maggots can rapidly multiply. Unluckily, since they thrive underground, root maggots can be difficult to identify. When you notice yellowing or stunted growth on your crops but can not seem to see any evidence of some other pests, it might be worthy to check on the roots of one or two specimens and look for root maggots. The earlier you respond to any problem you find, the better the results in controlling the root maggot infestation.