Vegetable Garden

Wednesday Wigglers ~ Leatherjackets

March 16, 2011

Leatherjacket – root eating cranefly larvae

How well do you know your veg gardening friends from foes? On Wednesday’s I’ll be trying to highlight our gardening friends and enemies, from now on known as Wednesday Wigglers.  First off:


Not the ones you wear and definitely pests!

What are Leatherjackets?

Leatherjackets are little grey-brown grubs that are fleshy with no legs that can grow as big as 50mm (the ones in our garden are more usually a couple of centimetres).

They’re the larvae of the Crane fly, also known as daddy-long-legs.  Adult females can usually be seen from late July to September flying around with their lollopy gait. (I can attest to this as I’m often camping when they’re about and I’m phobic, despite them being harmless!)

Each female can lay around 300 eggs in the soil surface that hatch about 3 weeks later. As soon as the eggs hatch the larvae start to feed on vegetables, root crops and grassland.  If it’s mild they can feed throughout the winter, but especially as temperatures warm up in the early spring.

In late May the larvae pupate in the soil, with the adults emerging during the summer months.

How do you spot leatherjackets?

They’re often first noticed when turfed areas are turned into vegetable (or flower) gardens, or if you allow your patch to be overcome with grassy weeds.  You might notice that plants don’t look as well as you’d expect them to, wilting as their roots are attacked.

How can you get rid of leatherjackets?

When you’re weeding or harvesting keep an eye out for them and remove them immediately (hens and pigs love them).

They like to live in dark, damp places so you could try covering the soil with cardboard or old carpet, pulling it back in the morning and leaving the birds to come in and feed on them.

For an organic solution, Supernemos can be watered onto wet soil once the soil temperature is over 10°C.

You could also try leaving bait around under pieces of bark with bran hidden underneath (also works for slugs), picking them off once you find them.

So good luck in your bug hunt!

Just for balance, next week we’ll look at a Friend.


  • Reply Leather jackets August 21, 2011 at 9:39 am

    Great going guys ! I have never seen this much detailed information on this relevant topic.

  • Reply Help - what do I do with my strawberry patch? September 30, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    […] I’m sure many of you have heard that the slugs are expected back in our gardens in large quantities again this year, but I’m guessing we’ll also be seeing a lot of crane fly too if the amount of larvae we fed to our pigs is anything to go by. Every single weed I pulled out had at least one or two leather jacket grubs around it and I’ve already lost one kale seedling to one of th… […]

  • Reply Kathleen Gibbons April 20, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    Hi Dee, Just discovered your site as I was traipsing through the internet to find out what these grubs which came in with a load of topsoil were. so delighted to find an answer as they have spread every where and destroyed crops last year. fantastic site and so practical.
    Keep growing and sharing

    • Reply greensideupveg April 20, 2014 at 8:33 pm

      Thanks so much for stopping by Kathleen and glad to be able to help 🙂

  • Reply 12 Friendly Creatures We Want To See In Our Gardens April 22, 2014 at 8:54 pm

    […] Coach Horse Beetles are often found under stones, logs or pots. They eat slugs, cutworms and leatherjackets among other […]

  • Reply 12 garden pests we don't want to see among our veggies September 12, 2014 at 11:19 pm

    […] Not the ones we wear, but little grey-brown grubs. Leatherjackets are the larvae of crane fly and are root eaters. They’re fleshy with no legs and can grow as big as 50mm. For more information on how to identify and get rid of them, take a look here. […]

  • Reply Love is.... September 14, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    […] might be a good time to mention the leatherjackets. Has anyone else noticed the zillions of these wriggly little root eaters in their soil? […]

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