Agriculture: Cole Crops Pest Management Guidelines

Garden Symphylan

  • Scutigerella immaculata
  • Description of the Pest

    Garden symphylan, also called garden centipede, is closely related to insects. Symphylans are slender, elongate, and white with prominent, long antennae. When full grown, they are 0.5 inch long or less and have 15 body segments and 11 to 12 pairs of legs. They may be found more than 3 feet below the surface of the soil.


    Symphylans may damage sprouting seeds, seedlings before or after emergence, or older plants. They feed primarily on root hairs and rootlets. Feeding may stunt transplants as new roots grow out of the transplant plug.

    The economic significance of symphylan feeding decreases as plants get larger and older. However, their pitting of roots may provide entry for pathogens, regardless of plant age.

    Symphylan damage mainly occurs in well-drained soils with high content of organic matter, and especially in farms that fertilize with manures. Symphylans do not thrive in compacted or sandy soils.


    Reduce organic matter input. Monitor where symphylans have previously been a problem to determine the need for spot treatments.

    Biological Control

    Numerous organisms prey on symphylans, including predatory mites, predaceous ground beetles, true centipedes, and various fungi, but little is known about their effect on symphylan abundance. Consider installing and maintaining insectary plants to attract natural enemies of garden symphylans.

    Cultural Control

    The effectiveness of rotations with nonhost crops has not been studied; however, you can use the following cultural methods to prevent and control damage from garden symphylans:

    • Reduce the amount of nondecomposed plant material and manure that is applied to the soil.
    • Wait to seed or transplant until the cover crop, soil-incorporated weeds, and manure have completely broken down.
    • Pack down the soil surface after planting to reduce crop injury.
    • Plant a higher seed population in problem areas to help compensate for damage.

    Organically Acceptable Methods

    Use cultural control in an organically certified crop.

    Monitoring and Treatment Decisions

    Visual detection of any symphylans before or at planting often indicates that symphylans are numerous enough to cause economic damage. Bait trapping is a relatively efficient and easy sampling method. Before planting, use bait trapping to monitor garden symphylans by using the procedure described below:

    1. Cut raw beets, carrots, or potatoes in half, in the way that exposes the most inside surface area, or in thick slices. Scratch the cut surface immediately before placing it at a depth where moisture is clearly visible in the soil. Use at least one dozen bait traps in a 10- to 15-acre field.
    • Remove dry soil from the surface with care; do not disturb the pores in the moist soil, through which symphylans move to reach the bait. Rake the dry soil away with a lettuce knife, rather than slicing into the soil with a knife or spade.
    1. Cover each bait trap with a solid plastic cup or small plastic pot.
    • Make sure the plastic cap or dome is large enough to prevent excessive heating of the bait or accumulation of excess condensation. A round, white, plastic pot or Styrofoam cup about 6 inches in diameter and 6 inches deep, with no drainage holes, is adequate.
    1. After 24 to 36 hours, remove the cover and count the symphylans, first on the soil surface underneath (symphylans will quickly hide), and then on the beet, carrot, or potato slice.

    If any symphylans are present on the bait, significant stand loss can occur. Apply insecticide if any symphylans are detected on the bait. This will kill symphylans near the surface and allow the crop to better establish their roots.

    Spot treatments with insecticide may be adequate. However, symphylans deeper in soil will eventually reinfest the root zone. If cultural methods and insecticide application are not enough to avoid damage, consider preplant soil fumigation.

    Common name Amount per acre REI‡ PHI‡
    (Example trade name) (hours) (days)
    Not all registered pesticides are listed. The following are ranked with the pesticides having the greatest IPM value listed first—the most effective and least harmful to natural enemies, honey bees, and the environment are at the top of the table. When choosing a pesticide, consider information relating to air and water quality, resistance management, and the pesticide's properties and application timing. Always read the label of the product being used.
      (Brigade WSB) Label rates 12 7
      COMMENTS: Registered for use on head and stem cole crops only (see label for more information).
      (Belay) 9–12 fl oz 12 21
      COMMENTS: Soil application. Highly toxic to bees for more than 5 days following an application. This product has potential to leach into groundwater where soils are permeable, particularly where the water table is shallow.
      (Mustang) 2.4–4.3 fl oz 12 1
      COMMENTS: In certain cole crops exported to Canada (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower), PHI of 14 days is recommended in order to meet tolerances— see FIFRA 2(ee) recommendation for more information.
      (Aza-Direct)# Label rates 4 0
      COMMENTS: Use a rate of 1–2 pints per acre under most circumstances. For heavy infestations, 3.5 pints per acre is allowed. Check with your organic certifier to see which azadirachtin products are organically acceptable.
      (Mocap EC) 2.4 fl oz per 1000 ft row See label NA
      COMMENTS: Registered for use in cabbage only. At-plant application only. To avoid crop injury, do not use as a furrow treatment or allow the spray to contact the seed.
      (Diazinon 50W) Label rates 96 (4 days) NA
      COMMENTS: Registered for use in broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collards, kale, and mustard greens. Preplant or transplant water application only (see label for more information). Avoid drift and tailwater runoff into surface waters.
    Restricted entry interval (REI) is the number of hours (unless otherwise noted) from treatment until the treated area can be safely entered without protective clothing. Preharvest interval (PHI) is the number of days from treatment to harvest. In some cases the REI exceeds the PHI. The longer of the two intervals is the minimum time that must elapse before harvest.
    1 Rotate insecticides with a different mode-of-action group number, and do not use products with the same mode-of-action group number more than twice per season to help prevent the development of resistance. For example, the organophosphates have a group number of 1B; insecticides with a 1B group number should be alternated with insecticides that have a group number other than 1B. Mode-of-action group numbers are assigned by IRAC (Insecticide Resistance Action Committee).
    # Acceptable for use on organically grown produce.
    Text Updated: 12/20
    Treatment Table Updated: 12/20