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Researchers are asking farmers and growers with a wireworm problem to get in touch to help them develop new control methods.

Wireworms, or click beetle larvae, are a major pest of cereals and root vegetables, and seed treatments and other contact insecticides are traditionally used to protect crops from feeding damage.

However, these pesticides are being phased out in Europe, and it is doubtful if a new soil insecticide could ever become available for wireworm management.

In response to this, Rothamsted Research’s Dr Jozsef Vuts and Dr Gareth Thomas are investigating alternative methods of control.

Dr Vuts said: “Plants are constantly releasing chemicals into the air or the soil, and pest species have evolved to tune into these as a way of finding food. We can use that to our advantage by creating traps that lure the wireworms by emitting these very same ‘smells’.

“These traps and non-toxic and provide an environmentally benign alternative for soil pest management. The main aim of our project is to develop wireworm management strategies based on attractive soil traps.”

Blends of these attractant chemicals, applied as slow-release formulations for example, will help create pest monitoring and management systems for wireworms, circumventing the issues connected with insecticides.

This work also has great significance within the history of Rothamsted, as in 1919 some of the first papers from its then newly-formed Entomology Department were on the chemical control of wireworms.

Wireworms became a problem after WWI, as large areas of grassland were being dug up for potatoes - but back then the limited pest control options available to farmers included using arsenic or cyanide.

Thankfully science has moved on since then and, as Dr Thomas says, these 21st Century approaches will significantly impact UK and international plant and insect science by providing a better understanding of below ground ‘chemical ecology’.

“It will also create a model for controlling soil pests in general towards other more sustainable solutions - such as breeding of crop plants with chemical traits that either don’t attract, or even repel, pests.”

Any farmers or growers who notice wireworm damage on their land and want to help the project should get in touch with either Gareth or Jozsef.

Gareth Thomas ( or Jozsef Vuts (


Dr Jozsef Vuts

Chemical Ecologist

Dr Gareth Thomas

Post-Doctoral Research Scientist


Rothamsted Research is the longest-running agricultural research institute in the world. We work from gene to field with a proud history of ground-breaking discoveries in areas as diverse as crop management, statistical interpretation and soil health. Our founders, in 1843, were the pioneers of modern agriculture, and we are known for our imaginative science and our collaborative approach to developing innovative farm practice.
Through independent research, we make significant contributions to improving agri-food systems in the UK and internationally, with economic impact estimated to exceed £3 bn in annual contribution to the UK economy. Our strength lies in our systems approach, which combines strategic research, interdisciplinary teams and multiple partnerships.
Rothamsted is home to three unique National Bioscience Research Infrastructures which are open to researchers from all over the world: The Long-Term Experiments, Rothamsted Insect Survey and the North Wyke Farm Platform.
We are strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), with additional support from other national and international funding streams, and from industry. We are also supported by the Lawes Agricultural Trust (LAT).


The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.
BBSRC invests to push back the frontiers of biology and deliver a healthy, prosperous and sustainable future. Through our investments, we build and support a vibrant, dynamic and inclusive community which delivers ground-breaking discoveries and develops bio-based solutions that contribute to tackling global challenges, such as sustainable food production, climate change, and healthy ageing.
As part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), we not only play a pivotal role in fostering connections that enable the UK’s world-class research and innovation system to flourish – we also have a responsibility to enable the creation of a research culture that is diverse, resilient, and engaged.
BBSRC proudly forges interdisciplinary collaborations where excellent bioscience has a fundamental role. We pioneer approaches that enhance the equality, diversity, and inclusion of talent by investing in people, infrastructure, technologies, and partnerships on a global scale.


The Lawes Agricultural Trust, established in 1889 by Sir John Bennet Lawes, supports Rothamsted Research’s national and international agricultural science through the provision of land, facilities and funding. LAT, a charitable trust, owns the estates at Harpenden and Broom's Barn, including many of the buildings used by Rothamsted Research. LAT provides an annual research grant to the Director, accommodation for nearly 200 people, and support for fellowships for young scientists from developing countries. LAT also makes capital grants to help modernise facilities at Rothamsted, or invests in new buildings.