Managing pests in the garden

Credit: Flickr / M Hedin

Q: I have bugs in my soil (small white centipede-like creatures)that I am pretty positive are symphilids. They are voracious and make growing many crops impossible! I have tried many things from cover crops, to
planting starts rather than seeds, to planting thickly, to staggered plantings, to nematodes, and used various natural pesticides to no avail! Any ideas? 

The garden symphylan (Scutigerella immaculata) is a sporadic pest in this area. They are about 12 mm long, white, fast-moving with 10 to 12 pairs of legs (1 pair of legs per body segments with 15 to 22 body segments (usually 15).

This pest is at best difficult to control since it can migrate down to .3 to 1.5 m (1 to 5 ft.) under extreme conditions, e.g. drought. Normally symphylans feed on primarily microbe and organic matter but can move to seeds, tubers, roots and fine-root hairs on a wide variety of young plants. Symphylans especially like moist soils that are high in organic matter and are quite active under warm temperatures (15 to 20°C). Multiple generations can occur during the season. Symphylans are easily spread by infested soil.

Control is best by management rather than eradication, by altering habitat, reducing moisture and using good sanitation. Water early in the morning, avoid overwatering, provide good drainage, consider drip irrigation, and reduce humidity. Practice cultivation to promote the soil to dry out. Try growing plants in raised containers. No chemical control is available.