How to Get Rid of Garden Symphylans



You’re tending to your garden or managing your crops when suddenly, you notice stunted growth and poor yields. The culprit? A centipede-like critter known as the garden symphylan. These soil-dwelling arthropods are more than just a nuisance; they wreak havoc in the fertile soils of western Oregon and Washington, turning the dreams of bountiful harvests into nightmares for gardeners and farmers.

The challenge with these pests is their elusive nature. Symphylans are adept at hiding within the soil, making them difficult to detect and even harder to eradicate, especially since they are resistant to many common pesticides. Their management is not just a small concern—it’s a critical battle for the health of our plants and the productivity of our gardens and fields.

We’ll explore the underground world of symphylans, uncovering the secrets to identifying and controlling these hidden adversaries. It’s time to arm ourselves with knowledge and take a stand against these subterranean saboteurs, ensuring our green spaces remain vibrant and thriving.

Understanding Garden Symphylans

Understanding Garden Symphylans Dive into the world of garden symphylans, and you’ll find a creature that seems straight out of a microcosmic horror film. These small, blind arthropods, no longer than a quarter of an inch when fully grown, are the pale invaders of your garden’s underworld.

With a body adorned with 6 to 12 pairs of legs, they scuttle unseen through the soil, clustering in ‘hotspots’ that can devastate irrigated crops, especially in alluvial soils. Their life cycle is a marvel of incomplete metamorphosis, transitioning through stages without radically changing form, allowing them to maintain a consistent presence in the soil ecosystem.

Despite their centipede-like appearance, symphylans are not insects. They’re more akin to centipedes and millipedes, part of a group that predates the dinosaurs. This lineage gives them a resilience that’s both admirable and frustrating for those of us trying to manage them. They navigate the soil with a sense of purpose, moving and migrating in patterns that reflect their intricate ecological niche.

Understanding these patterns is key to managing their populations and mitigating the damage they cause to our cherished plants.

Identifying and Sampling Symphylan Populations

When it comes to garden pests, few are as sneaky as symphylans. These tiny, white worms can be the bane of any green thumb, causing more than their fair share of headaches. But before you can declare war on them, you need to know you’re facing the right enemy. Identifying garden symphylans starts with a keen eye for the unusual – spotting the white worms in your Miracle Berry plant’s pot could be your first clue.

Once you’ve spotted potential symphylans, it’s time to confirm your suspicions with some soil sleuthing. Sampling methods vary, but they often involve baiting these critters with something they can’t resist. You can how-to-plant-tomato-plants-2also roll up your sleeves and dig into the soil directly, sifting through the earth to catch these pests red-handed.

But remember, symphylans are masters of hide-and-seek, with patchy populations that demand a strategic approach to sampling. The best conditions for a symphylan stakeout? Moist soil and a bit of patience. With accurate identification and strategic sampling, you’re on your way to reclaiming your soil from these uninvited guests.

Cultural and Organic Control Methods

If you’re up against garden symphylans, fear not: cultural and organic warriors are here to help. Imagine your soil as a battlefield, and you’re the general. Disrupting the enemy’s territory can be effective, so consider tilling your soil to disturb these pests’ cozy homes. But don’t stop there; nature has given us some potent allies.

Diatomaceous earth, a fine powder made from fossilized algae, can be a gritty deterrent for symphylans, scratching at their exoskeletons and leading to their dehydration. Azadiractin, an extract from the neem tree, is another green weapon in your arsenal. It’s like a botanical spy, interfering with the symphylans’ hormones and throwing a wrench into their life cycle.

For a proactive strike, deploy carrot slices as bait to lure them out before they can do more damage. And if you’re looking for a fresh start, consider repotting your plants in new, possibly sterile soil, or even switch to a soil-free substrate to sidestep the issue altogether. These organic and cultural tactics are not just about offense; they’re about creating a garden environment where symphylans just can’t thrive.

So gear up, gardeners, and reclaim your territory with these earth-friendly strategies.

Chemical Control and Its Limitations

When it comes to chemical warfare on garden symphylans, the arsenal is, unfortunately, lacking. The chemicals you can grab off the shelf at your local garden store might as well be water for all the good they’ll do against these pests. And the heavy-duty stuff, like fumigation chemicals? Not only are they harsh and toxic, requiring special licenses to apply, but they’re also not a silver bullet.

Organophosphates, once the go-to for symphylan control, have been benched for very valid environmental and health concerns. And then there’s bifenthrin, which might show some promise, but good luck finding a product labeled for symphylans in North Carolina or anywhere else for that matter. The takeaway here is clear: chemical control isn’t the straightforward solution it might seem.

It’s a path fraught with limitations, legal hurdles, and a lack of effective options. As gardeners and stewards of the land, it’s our responsibility to consider these factors carefully and weigh the potential risks against the benefits when it comes to pest management. The battle against garden symphylans is a complex one, and chemicals are just one piece of a much larger puzzle.


In the garden’s hidden depths, garden symphylans wage a silent war on our plants, proving themselves a formidable foe akin to the vexing nematode. This article has shed light on the shadowy existence of these pests and the challenges they pose to both casual gardeners and professional farmers alike.

Despite their destructiveness, it’s important to remember that symphylans, while not friends to our crops, aren’t a threat to us and can even play a role in the natural pest control hierarchy. Our best defense is a vigilant, integrated approach, combining cultural, organic, and, where necessary, chemical methods to keep symphylan populations in check.

As we’ve explored, no single strategy will suffice; it’s the thoughtful integration of various tactics that holds the key to managing these pests effectively. The fight against symphylans is ongoing, and staying informed about the latest research and advancements in pest management is crucial.

Let’s continue to cultivate our knowledge as diligently as we tend our gardens, ensuring that our green spaces remain havens of growth and productivity.