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Radish Maggots – Getting to the Root of the Problem

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Are your radishes full of radish maggots?

There’s nothing quite so nasty as pulling up radishes full of wormy radish maggots. As you might expect from a maggot, these are the immature phase of a type of fly. So, this larvae is from an egg laid by a tiny fly.

And because the flies are so small, that means it’s hard to keep them off crops even when using floating row covers. That’s because they’re so tiny, they can slip through the fluttering cloth or even lay larvae in the soil near crops that the larvae will later attack.

What do these “radish worms” look like?

Radish maggot infested radish

Radish maggots look like, well, maggots. They’re fat, whitish, squirmy larvae that tunnel through the radish root. And when they eat their way through your radishes, they destroy your crop.

Do they these larvae only eat radishes?

Unfortunately, radish maggots will eat many of your crops. So, watch out for them on other crops including turnips to radishes to broccoli.

How do you get rid of radish maggots?

The best way to avoid radish maggots is to avoid getting them in the first place! So, practicing crop rotation can really help. Basically, that means not planting the same crops this pest likes in the same place year after year.

(If you don’t know how to plan for crop rotation and other food gardening challenges, our online gardening programs might be a big help. Learn more here.)

However, if they’re already worming through your crops, consider that planting a goner. That means, remove all of your infested radishes and dispose of them. But do not put them into your compost or you’ll perpetuate the problem!

And, do not replant radishes or other radish maggot host crops in that location for a couple of years. This will help break the life cycle of any residual insects. And, adult flies won’t be interested in returning to your garden because there’s nothing they want to lay their eggs on.

As well, if you are gardening in raised beds, you may choose to exchange your soil. Simply put: when you remove the old soil, you’ll also be removing any residual larvae or eggs in it.

Finally, encourage populations of parasitic wasps and other predatory insects. That’s because they will eat the larvae and lay their progeny’s eggs in the maggots. And when their babies hatch, they’ll eat your pests.

Could it be a different radish worm pest?

If your radishes have tunnel wounds, radish maggot may not always be the problem. Instead, if you notice hard, wheat colored worms in your radishes, you may have wireworm. Wireworm can be equally destructive. And, it is very difficult to eradicate. Plus, wireworm will attack everything from radish to brassicas to carrots.

6 comments on “Radish Maggots – Getting to the Root of the Problem

  1. rhaglund on

    2 months later…we’re now harvesting beets from the side on which we did not exchange the soil. So far, they’re great! I did, however, notice that tree roots are heaving in the raised bed next door to this one – ugh! That bed’s full of blueberries & strawberries. More work ahead…

  2. Jerry on

    The best way to control tree roots is to dig a trench between the garden and the tree. The trench should be at least 24″ deep so you cut the roots going to the garden. Do this near as far from the garden as possible to delay how long it takes for new roots to grow back. You could also install a sheet of plastic or roofing paper in the trench before refilling it to provide a partially effective root barrier.

  3. Eddie LIEPERT on

    Has anyone tried coffee grounds to control pests by masking the area of the plants attacked? My cousin has tried this on carrots with some success.

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