How to Choose Beneficial Nematodes


Beneficial nematodes, also called insect-parasitic nematodes, can kill nearly any kind of pest insect. Beneficial nematodes are microscopic worm-like organisms that inhabit the soil and penetrate and feed on insects. Two main types of insect-parasitic nematodes exist: those that are sedentary and wait for a host to come near them, called "ambusher" nematodes; and those which actively move through the soil to find a host, called "cruiser" nematodes. You'll need to select the appropriate nematode species that is most effective in killing the specific pest insects invading your lawn, trees, shrubs or other plants.

Step 1

Select Heterorhabditis bacteriophora nematodes to get rid of scarab beetle larvae and billbugs in your lawn, as well as root weevils around your ornamental trees and bushes, berry bushes, and cranberries. H. bacteriophora nematodes are "cruisers" that are also effective at controlling wood borers in ornamentals.

Step 2

Choose H. megidis nematodes for controlling infestations of root weevils around your ornamental trees and bushes. This nematode can be effective at killing other soil insects, but it's most effective against black vine weevils.

Step 3

Select nematodes of the Steinernema carpocapsae species to kill artichoke plume moths, root weevils and cranberry girdlers around your cranberry plants, wood borer insects in your ornamentals, as well as billbugs in your lawn. S. carpocapsae nematodes are "ambushers" that can also get rid of armyworms, cutworms and webworms in your lawn.

Step 4

Choose S. feltiae nematodes for getting rid of fungus gnats in your ornamentals and sciarids in your mushrooms.

Step 5

Choose nematodes of the S. glaseri and S. kushidai species to control scarab larvae around your plants and in your lawn. S. glaseri, a "cruiser" nematode, is the largest beneficial nematode species and is twice the length of S. carpocapsae.

Step 6

Select S. riobravis nematodes to kill root weevils around your citrus trees. These nematodes can also be effective in getting rid of earworms and mole crickets that infest corn. S. riobravis is unique in that it utilizes both the ambush and cruiser behaviors to find and kill hosts.

Step 7

Choose S. scapterisci, an "ambusher" nematode, to get rid of mole crickets in your lawn. The mole cricket is the only pest that S. scapterisci nematodes are effective against, but they provide long-term biological control of the insect.

Tips and Warnings

  • Beware of climate and temperature limitations when using certain species of beneficial nematodes. Steinernema carpocapsae are most effective at soil temperatures of 72 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit, S. feltiae are ineffective at temperatures below 50 degrees, and S. riobravis need a minimum soil temperature of 95 degrees to be effective. Heterorhabditis bacteriophora are most effective when soil temperatures are warmer than 68 degrees.


  • Cornell University: A Guide to Natural Enemies in North America -- Nematodes

Who Can Help

  • Beneficial Nematodes
Keywords: choose beneficial nematodes, select nematodes, insect parasitic nematodes, Heterorhabditis, Steinernema, biological insect control

About this Author

Sarah Terry brings 10 years of experience writing novels, business-to-business newsletters, and a plethora of how-to articles. Terry has written articles and publications for a wide range of markets and subject matters, including Medicine & Health, Eli Financial, Dartnell Publications and Eli Journals.