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Wormy bugs eating seeds???

This is my first post here. I hope it's in the right place.

I am trying to get some pepper seeds started. The first set I planted (two cups, two seeds per cup in a seed starting tray). Only two sprouted and without cotyledons. I then planted four more, this time seeds from a more recent save. A few days later (today) I was digging around in the soil just to see if anything had started to come out, and found a seed that looked like the beginnings of a root popping out. Then I noticed the root was moving. After prodding gently with a toothpick, I noticed the root responding to my touch. So I dug a little more with a toothpick, and found several of the little critters in both trays!

I don't know what they are, but they only seem to have affected the pepper plant segments of the tray. I have four tomato seedlings looking healthy and vigorous as can be. It seems as if they are eating their way into the seeds and eating the cotyledons off the ones that sprout before they can get to them.

The soil is Miracle Gro seedstarting mix. I cleaned and bleached the seed starting tray, the water tray, and the wicking mat that bottom waters prior to putting any soil or seeds in the system.

Can someone please help me??? I just need one plant, as I have no space for a garden. Just one for the container!!!

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Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 7:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M(11/B)

If they are extremely thin but short and translucent -- as they seem to be, then they are most likely to be fungus gnat maggots. They do eat the root hairs of seedlings and another member reported losing Her pepper seedlings to them a few years ago. I think development of my pepper seedlings were slowed and stunted due to heavy infestation last spring.

If they are somewhat larger -- more like regular fly maggots then they cold be corn seed fly maggots. They burrow inside unsprouted seed shells and eat the cotyledon and developing seedling. I lost a bout a dozen squash and melon seeds to them last year. They will pupate and make a reddish brown pupa about the size of a rice grain. I found those near rotting seeds and that's how I realized what had happened.

For fungus gnats, I use mosquito bits which are Bt var israelensis bacteria -- a biological insecticide sold to control mosquito larvae in standing water like birdbaths, rain barrels, and ponds, but also infects and kills fungus fnat larvae.

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Location: TN/GA 7b

Fungus gnat larvae seems like a good guess. The M-G soil always seems to have the eggs in it.

But what ever kind of maggot/larvae it is, their development is favored by very moist conditions. They need water and the only water they get is from the moisture in the soil. So you may be keeping your soil a little too moist.

But it is always tricky with seedlings. I never have trouble with fungus gnats in my houseplants because I let the soil dry out thoroughly between waterings, which takes care of the problem. But with seeds and seedlings, you can't let it get that dry or they die.

One thing that helps for me against the fungus gnats is cinnamon. I sprinkle a little cinnamon in the water I water with. But that doesn't really work against the larvae. The cinnamon is anti-fungal, keeps down the fungus that the fungus gnat adults eat. So eventually no adults means no more babies. But if your larvae are something else, I don't know if it will make a difference.

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Joined: Thu Feb 12, 2015 10:07 pm

Thanks. I think that's a reasonable place to start. I'm gonna try out the Mosquito Bits and see if that works. In the mean time I am germinating some seeds on a paper towel.

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