White Soil Worm: [Characteristics, Detection, Effects and Treatment]

What is the white soil worm?

The Anoxia villosa and Melolontha melolontha , better known as white worms, are regular inhabitants of the land, hard-earned to eat the roots of available plants.

There are other lesser known species of white worms such as Tropinota hirta, Phyllopertha horticola and Melolontha hippocastani.

They are all the larvae of different types of beetles. Anoxia villosa is the most abundant of the species, but Melolontha melolontha is also abundant in France and the rest of the European continent.

They are fierce consumers of the tubers and bulbs of ornamental plants , so they can become a real headache for the health of our garden. The favorite times for attacks are spring and fall , when they escalate alarmingly at times.

This is not the case in winter and summer , where the most extreme temperatures tend to keep them away from food voracity. When abundant watering is provided in the summer, they can hatch as young as 8 years old.

And although a few larvae disseminated in the roots do not cause serious damage, it is necessary to invade until the entire root system of a tree is rendered useless to produce its drought and death. They are beetle larvae, fat, white and arched.

The adult measures 3 centimeters and the larva 4. They are long-lived larvae: they last 3 or 4 years before turning into a beetle. When the cold arrives, they go deep into the ground and winter. The problem lies in the larva, and not in its adult stage, that is, the beetle.

How can we identify it?

An inspection of the soil will be enough to visualize these white worms , but also the yellowing of the leaves until they wither, indicate that something is very wrong.

One way to locate them in the garden is when birds and moles become regular visitors, because they are surely looking for them in the land.

The same happens with the visit of blackbirds that prowl the place, so a daytime observation period will suffice to discover them in full action. 

As we have already said, these worms are actually beetle larvae. They have a fat, arched appearance and are white in color. An adult can measure about 3 cm and the larva 4 cm and a little more. They tend to group together, they do not live alone.

They also have a long life that sometimes exceeds 4 years, before turning into a powerful beetle. They know how to protect themselves very well in the winter , because that is when they sink the most into the ground.

So they can become a real problem for the root system of plants, because they will be able to suck all the sap if they become a pest. Otherwise, the adult beetle is never as problematic as the worm.

What plants does the white soil worm affect?

Generally, they attack all ornamental, annual, perennial and perennial plants, including their tubers and bulbs.

They relentlessly attack olive, almond, prunus, quince, abies pinsapos, ligustrum, liquidambar, among many other species.

There is a species of white worm whose larvae cause a lot of damage in winter crops of wheat , peas, barley, lentils, as well as the early sowing of summer crops such as corn, sorghum and sunflower.  

There are many species, but the most damaging are the so-called «Bull Bug» or Diloboderus abderus Sturm, which acquire a perfect «C» shape when they feed on the roots of plants.

How to combat the white soil worm?

There are several effective methods to combat them, provided they have become a pest. Otherwise, they do not harm the plant


A good pesticide is ideal and immediately afterwards abundant irrigation has to be applied so that the product infiltrates the soil and causes the worms to sprout, rising to the surface.

Humidity of floor

White worms love humidity, they love wet soil, and females in this environment are often very prone to laying many eggs.

This is not the case with dry, arid lands and those that receive the summer heat. So there must be a balance in irrigation, in order to prevent them from having a suitable habitat.

White grass worm

It is also pertinent to control all the grass near our properties, so we have to be very aware of whether a neighbor is being affected by a plague of these worms, since they will surely migrate to the garden as soon as they have the opportunity. 

Another healthy recommendation is to replace the pieces of dead grass in the garden, with the replanting of new weeds, but not before making an inspection to verify that those responsible for the damage are these worms.

They are a terrible pest to lawns in general, leaving dry, patchy areas that deepen toward the last third of summer. They are identified because when they are feeding on the roots of the grass, they acquire a characteristic «C» shape. 

What are the best products to remove the white worm from the soil?

Insecticides based on the Chlorpyrifos component are very effective when fumigating the area affected by white soil worms.

Chlorpyrifos is an extremely effective active material for white soil worms and others, such as donuts, gray worms, wire worms

The way to apply it is for 15 days in a row, every afternoon. But the 4% brand Mesurol has also proven to be very effective. Another commercial brand of great use in these cases is Vydate, which contains an active material called Oxamyl, the strongest of all.

Both should be used according to the directions in the package insert. The safest thing is that about 3 applications in a row are needed to exterminate the pest.

In the event of an attack on the lawn, the treatment to be followed to control the white worm requires the application of trichlorfon (Dylox) bendiocarb (Intercept) as well as halofenozide (Mach 2, GrubBGon, GrubEx) and the problem can also be treated with the application of Imidacloprid or Mérit.

Likewise, there is an effective alternative product: the nematode Heterorhabditis bacteriophora, very effective in exercising absolute control over the white worm. It is important to apply abundant irrigation, immediately after the insecticide is applied on the ground, because this guarantees its maximum absorption. 

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