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Pest: Symphilids

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Pest: Symphilids




(Scutigerella, Hanseniella, and Symphyella)








Special Species Notes:


From the Greek roots sym("together") and phyla ("tribe").


Symphilids are very deadly to the plants. When not covered in dirt, the symphilid is white and resembles a millipede. These pests chew through your root hairs like candy, the bigger the root system the bigger the colony. If left unchecked, these pests will result in the death of anything growing in infested soil. The root damage these pests inflict renders roots defenseless against fungus.


With their 12 pairs of relatively short legs, symphilids resemble small white centipedes, and the first Symphyla was actually described as a centipede in 1763. It was not until 100 years later that these animals were recognized as a separate class within Arthropoda. Symphyla can be easily distinguished from centipedes as they lack the forcipules (poison claws). Instead, the symphilid head has chewing mouthparts. The head bears a pair of long antennae; the eyes are absent.


They are soil-dwelling arthropods of the class Symphyla in the subphylum Myriapoda. They are primarily herbivores and detritus feeders living deep in the soil, under stones, in decaying wood, and in other moist places where they feed. They can move rapidly through the pores between soil particles, and are typically found from the surface down to a depth of about 19.7 inches (50 cm). They consume decaying vegetation, but can do considerable harm in the agricultural setting by consuming seeds, roots, and root hairs in cultivated soil. Usually, they not found in hydroponic gardens, this is a burrowing arthropod and has difficulty living without soil.


Also called Dwarf Millipedes, Garden Centipedes, Garden Symphylans, Glasshouse Symphylans, Symphylids/Symphilids


For close pictures click link: https://www.chaosofdelight.org/symphyla/#all-about-symphyla


Common Species:


Around 160 species of Symphyla are recognized worldwide, with only two families - Scutigerellidae and Scolopendrellidae. Both represented in North America. They are in all continents except Antarctica.  Fifteen genera are known, and many genera are found worldwide. The most common genera are Scutigerella, Hanseniella, and Symphyella.


Numerous species have been described from different parts of the world , 27 species comprise described Australian fauna; 26 species are known from the US; Fourteen species of Symphyla are known from New Zealand – 2 species of Symphyella, and 12 species of Hanseniella. Not much is known about the biology or ecological importance of New Zealand native Symphyla.


The garden symphylan, Scutigerella immaculata a world-wide distributed  and can be a serious pest of vegetable crops and tree seedlings, occurs in greenhouses as well as agricultural situations. Scutigerella immaculate have done considerable damage to garden crops in various parts of Oregon. A species of Symphylella has been shown to be predominantly predatory, and some species are saprophagous. A species of Hanseniella has been recorded as a pest of sugar cane, and pineapples. A few species are found up trees and in are several cave-dwelling species.











Symphyla are small, cyrptic myriapods without eyes (blind) and without pigment, so they may appear cream or white in color, slender, prominent antennae with many segments; numerous legs (12 pair in mature adults). Well developed head. Symphyla are rapid runners.


The body is soft and generally 2 to 10 millimetres (0.08 to 0.4 in) long, divided into two body regions: head and trunk. An exceptional size is reached in Hanseniella magna, which attains lengths of 25 to 30 mm (1.0 to 1.2 in).


The head has long, segmented antennae, a postantennal organ, three pairs of mouthparts: mandibles, the long first maxillae, and the second pair of maxillae which are fused to form the lower lip or labium of the mouth. Disc-like Organ of Tömösváry,  which probably sense vibrations, are attached to the base of the antennae,  as they are in centipedes. Symphylans breathe through a pair of spiracles on the sides of the head. These are connected to a system of tracheae that branch through the head and the first three segments of the body only.


The trunk comprises 15–24 segments, which are protected by overlapping dorsal plates. Ten or twelve segments bear legs. The first segment is large and usually provided with a pair of legs, the last segment is slender, lacks legs, and possesses a pair of cerci.


 Immature have six pairs of legs on hatching. Each pair of legs is associated with an eversible structure, called a "coxal sac", that helps the animal absorb moisture, and a small stylus that may be sensory in function. Similar structures are found in the most primitive insects. The total number of legs grows with each molt.



Some people get Symphylid mixed up with Springtails, 'white spider mite", fungus gnats, centipedes, millipedes






Life cycle:


Unlike centipedes (harmless to plants), symphylans destroy small roots and burrow into the larger ones, where corky patches indicate areas that these pests have gnawed. Lacking eyes, their long antennae serve as sense organs. They have several features linking them to early insects, such as a labium (fused second maxillae), an identical number of head segments and certain features of their legs.



Eggs of the symphylans are fully grown in 3 months as this is a slower moving infestation. The trade off is this pest can live for 4 years, are constantly voracious, and molt throughout their life. One to two generations per year.



The genital openings are located on the fourth body segment, but the animals do not copulate.  Instead, the male deposits 150 to 450 packages of sperm, known as spermatiohores, on small stalks and abandons them. The female picks up the spermatophore and uses it to fertilize the eggs.  The female then picks these up in her mouth, which contains special pouches for storing the sperm. The adult female Symphilid lays eggs constantly wherever she travels year round. When she ready to lay her eggs, she does in small clusters (8-12), and attaches them to the sides of crevices or to moss or lichen with her mouth, smearing the sperm over them as she does so. After the eggs laid, they are guarded by the female.


Newborn Symphyla have six pairs of legs, and grow through a series of molts, adding more body segments and pairs of legs as they develop. There are seven juvenile stages, and the large number of molts, until the adult stage is reached. The development to maturity takes about a year. Molting continues throughout their life undergoing more than 50 molts.



First signs:


Plant will begin to show signs of necrosis and leaves will start to die off. It does not take long for the whole plant to become affected with no recovery from the damage. These pests live underground and feed on roots.



How it spreads:


Symphilids are not normally found in sterilized potting mixtures. They are attracted to compost (move compost piles away from gardens). They most commonly occur when using manure, used soil, or compost based mixtures which have not been sterilized.



Host plants:


They are extremely voracious and will consume organic matter at earlier stages of decay than will many other soil invertebrates. In the soil ecosystems, Symphyla participate in breaking down organic matter and redistributing the nutrients through the soil profile.


They feed on the roots of a wide range of crops. They're mostly a pest for growers of hops (the closest relative to cannabis). 


Symphyla very common and are found in a wide variety of habitats, usually in forests, in soil, litter, decaying wood and similar microhabitats, but also in the gardens, greenhouses, and farmlands, often quite deeply in soil. They survive for years in damp locations such as decaying logs and deep humus.




What to do


Repel symphylans by drenching soil with garlic



If growing in the ground, growers reduce symphylans with soil solarization and repeated rototilling


Manual Removal: Alas, the recourse of manual removal against underground pests is always minimal. If you sight these pests on the surface of your soil, kill them. This is a slower moving infestation and killing a few females will aid your plant more than you think.

If infestation is suspected, here's a way to determine if you have them: Ironic that watering is the simplest detection and drought is the stopgap.

When you water your plant they will rise to the surface of the soil and you can plainly see them crawling on the top of the soil. If your water mixes up the top inch or two of soil, watch for tiny worm looking things zipping for cover.


The recognition of this pest is made easier by dipping a suspect root and its surrounding soil into a bucket of water and searching for symphilids which float on the water surface.


These fast-running, white myriapods are abundant and easy to notice, but difficult to collect by hand, as they are small and very fragile. It's often found Symphyla in Berlese extractions for the best collection techniques. Click link to learn more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tullgren_funnel


Reduce the moisture of your soil to the bare minimum


Not much is known for controlling Symphilids




The Symphilid can frustrate many attempting to eradicate them. Symphilids require very thorough soil drenching to eradicate. Other root munching pests do not have the depth capabilities of this creature, ensure your ENTIRE medium is soaked or you will see reappearance. They are capable of burrowing up to 7 feet deep into soil when they sense drought to escape the harsh conditions during hot, dry weather. They however will not entirely leave a food source.  When dry conditions force these root chompers deeper into the ground and away from the central root ball of your plant, root damage will continue, but in a less dangerous location. If symphilids appear eradicated, take a soil sample from the bottom of your container, inspect, and re-drench if necessary.



Symphilids are resistant to oils and soaps and their eggs are tougher than any root predator.

Neem as a soil drench has proven effective against the symphilid.  4 teaspoons per US-g Soil Drench. Please Note: Drenching potting soil with neem will adversely affect the beneficial biology of the rhizosphere. If you need to drench the root zone with neem, a follow up application with a good quality actively aerated compost tea will help to re-inoculate the beneficial bacteria, fungi and protozoa.


While searching for controls methods, Abamectin products and Spinosyn products were mentioned that they may be effective applied as soil drench. Some claim Potassium Silicate is one of the fastest ways to kill sympilids and there eggs. but was unable to find any details for any of them.


H2O2 soil drench kills beneficial microbes. Its unknown if it affects them.


They are able to survive through a wide range of pH.


Garden Symphlans Infest Willamette Valley Soils: Oregon Tilth Growers Share Strategies







      Beneficial insects:


Increasing predators may help.


The symphilid moves too quickly for predatory mites to be effective.


Nematodes seem to have no affect








The link below will take you to "An Intro to beneficial bugs and beneficial insect food" it has a list (been worked on) to pests and beneficial insects








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