What are Segmented Worms With Hard Exoskeletons?

One of our readers recently reached out to us about some creatures she is curious about. She explained that over the last several months/years she has found several of these specimens around her property. They weren’t found in a particular location or near a specific plant, but they were always found in the dirt, not above ground. She sent us photos of some she recently found while digging up sunchokes:

Along with the photos, she included an excellent description, “They are an unusual lemon color, smooth with a hard exoskeleton and segmented body.  Only the tip of one end contains dots that look like eyes or antenna/claws and a few stubby legs. She has two questions about these worm-like organisms:

  1. Are they good or bad for my garden?
  2. What do they eat?

Our initial thought is that these are mealworms. Mealworms, which are the larvae of mealworm beetles, have light brown/orange segmented bodies, three pairs of tiny prolegs, and head complete with a mouth, labrum and a set of both antennae and claws. In other words, they are a perfect match appearance-wise to the specimens our reader discovered:

So, why are we hesitant to confirm these are mealworms? Well, mealworms are rarely found in the wild. They prefer human environments, like a kitchen or pantry, where they can feed on stored grains. When they are found in nature, they live under rocks and logs, where they eat decaying wood and leaves. Of course, the creatures our reader found could just be mealworms that live in the soil, but we aren’t sure.

Another creature that has a close resemblance to the specimens our reader found are click beetle larvae, a.k.a. wireworms. Wireworms are similar in shape and size to the creatures in the photos, and they also have 3 pairs of prolegs. In addition, wireworms live underground and feed on germinating seeds, roots, bulbs, and tubers. So, they are more likely to be found in a garden than mealworms!

So, which is it? Mealworms or wireworms? We are torn! We think the creatures look more like mealworms but behave more like wireworms! Either way, since she finds these specimens so sporadically and didn’t mention any damage to her garden plants, we don’t think they are something to worry about!

To wrap up, we aren’t sure if the specimens our reader found in the soil are mealworms or wireworms! We wish her the best of luck with her garden!

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What are Segmented Worms With Hard Exoskeletons?
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What are Segmented Worms With Hard Exoskeletons?
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We aren't sure if the specimens our reader found in the soil are mealworms or wireworms! We wish her the best of luck with her garden!
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