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Beneficial Worms?

September 24, 1989|ROBERT SMAUS

"But why are you pouring worms on the lawn?" asked my wife from a great distance, as I was trying to describe what nematodes are. One of the more fascinating of the new organic controls employs tiny (make that microscopic) worm-like nematodes that find, attack and kill larvae living underground, or close to the ground, such as cutworms, root maggots, wireworms, the helmet-headed larva of June beetles (which chomp on lawn grass roots and which were my intended target) and a host of other creatures that attack vegetables, flowers and lawns.

Biosys, a biological pest control company in Palo Alto, California makes this product, called BioSafe Lawn and Garden Insect Control. What you get in the large box is a plastic bottle with what looks like window screening inside, plus a package of "activator."

The screening is coated with a gel that contains the dormant nematodes (which can be stored refrigerated for up to six months). You add water and the activator to release the nematodes and then put this mixture is a watering can or hose-end sprayer and apply it to the ground.

Each box contains enough of the little creatures (probably billions) to treat an area 22.5 feet by 10 feet, or 225 square feet. Because it is not a poison, it is not harmful to the environment, people or pets. It is not yet commonly available at nurseries but is becoming available. Scanmask is a similar nematode product available through the mail, from Ringer, 9959 Valley View Road, Eden Prairie, Minn., 55344-3585, (800) 654-1047. One pint sells for $14.98. It treats 200 to 370 square feet depending on pest type.

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