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Other Creatures You May Encounter in the Soil

April 13, 2001
People digging in corn stubble now and in cornfields after they emerge search for a lot of things, including the possible presence of cutworms, grape colaspis larvae, white grubs, and wireworms. However, there are a lot of other creatures, mostly harmless and often beneficial, that you might encounter as you dig in the soil. Alan Mosler, Twin Count Service Company, and Kevin Black, Growmark, recently found some crane fly larvae in decaying roots of corn in Franklin County. Matt Montgomery, Extension unit educatorcrop systems, Sangamon/Menard Extension Unit, found some millipedes while he was out checking solar bait stations for detection of wireworms. Neither of these arthropods is cause for alarm, but they often are mistaken for cutworms.

Crane fly larvae are not pests of corn, but they are found occasionally in the spring during or shortly after corn planting. The body of a crane fly larva usually is dark, often the same color as the soil, and is tapered toward the front end. The larger end has four to six fleshy "horns." Obvious characteristics that distinguish crane fly larvae from cutworms are the absence of legs and a discernible head.

Some species of millipedes can injure planted seeds or growing seedlings, especially in no-till corn. However, millipedes rarely cause economic damage. Millipedes, or "thousand leggers," have a head and multisegmented body. The most distinguishing characteristic, however, is the large number of legs (30 or more pairs, usually two pairs per body segment). By comparison, cutworms have three pairs of true legs on the thoracic segments and five pairs of prolegs (false, peglike appendages) on the abdomen.

People find all sorts of organisms in the soil during the spring, and crane fly larvae and millipedes are only two examples. As the occurrence of other creatures in the soil becomes known to us, we'll offer descriptions and discuss their roles in future issues of the Bulletin.--Kevin Steffey

Author: Kevin Steffey

The Pest Management and Crop Development Bulletin
Executive Editor: Kevin Steffey, Extension Entomologist

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