Study into new control methods looking for people with a pest problem

  • 22
  • JUN
  • 2022

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 (

About Rothamsted Research
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, from crop treatment to crop protection, from statistical interpretation to soils management. Our founders, in 1843, were the pioneers of modern agriculture, and we are known for our imaginative science and our collaborative influence on fresh thinking and farming practices.
Through independent science and innovation, we make significant contributions to improving agri-food systems in the UK and internationally. In terms of the institute’s economic contribution, the cumulative impact of our work in the UK was calculated to exceed £3000 million a year in 20151. Our strength lies in our systems approach, which combines science and strategic research, interdisciplinary teams and partnerships.
Rothamsted is also home to three unique resources. These National Capabilities 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).
For more information, visit; Twitter @Rothamsted
1Rothamsted Research and the Value of Excellence: A synthesis of the available evidence, by Séan Rickard (Oct 2015)

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 in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.
Funded by government, BBSRC invested £469 million in world-class bioscience in 2016-17. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.
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About LAT
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.