Steinernema scapterisci — THE BENEFICIAL NEMATODE


What is this nematode?

There are thousands of species of nematodes in Florida. Many of them damage plants and are pests. A few attack only insects. Steinernema scapterisci attacks only pest mole crickets of the genus Neoscapteriscus, reproduces in them, and its progeny are released into the soil when the mole cricket dies. Furthermore, it attacks the adults and large immature stages of these mole crickets, not the small immature stages. It is a tiny (microscopic) nematode harmless to all organisms except pest mole crickets; it does not even attack Florida’s nonpest, native mole cricket. It is native to South America, where Florida’s pest mole crickets originally came from.

Where is this nematode?

Steinernema scapterisci nematodes were imported from Uruguay by University of Florida/IFAS nematologists in 1985. They were released in Alachua County and they began to spread. Then it was found that this nematode could be grown in commercial quantities on an artificial diet. Commercial production and sales began. That allowed it to be applied to pastures and turf in many places in northern, central, and southern Florida in experimental and commercial applications. Nobody has a record of all the places where it has been applied, and of course it has spread from many of those places. NOTE: The nematode is currently unavailable for sale. When a supplier becomes available, we will provide a link and applicator information.

Is this nematode already on your land?

If you or someone else already applied this nematode to your land or to other land close by, the chances are that it is still present, so there is no point applying more. Unfortunately, there is no easy way of checking for its presence — you need help from a nematologist.

Q. The nematode is microscopic, so how does it spread in a pasture?

A. Mole crickets infected by the nematodes still move or even fly about the pasture until they become too sick to do so. In this way, the mole crickets help disperse the nematodes to other areas. Adult southern and tawny mole crickets can fly for miles. Eventually, the mole crickets should spread the nematode to all parts of Florida where these pest mole crickets live.