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Lesser Cornstalk Borer

Article author: Kate Crumley
Most recently reviewed by: Tyler Mays & Danielle Sekula (2021)

Common Name(s): Lesser Cornstalk Borer


The lesser cornstalk borer is a small, yellow to black moth with sexual dimorphism that varies by location. This moth species is a pest on a variety of grain and legume crops, with larvae that feed by tunneling into the stem of the host plant.

Origin and Distribution

The lesser cornstalk borer is native to the United States. It can be found from Maine to California, and has been documented in Hawaii, but is most often found in sandy soils in the southeastern United States. It can also be found in Mexico, Central, and South America.

Habitat & Hosts

The lesser cornstalk borer is a polyphagous pest that feeds on a variety of crops. Vegetable and legume crops are often damaged, and it has a variety of weedy hosts like crabgrass, johnsongrass, wild oats, bermudagrass, wiregrass, goosegrass, and nutsedge.

Life Cycle

Lesser cornstalk borer eggs are oval, and are 0.35mm – 0.43 mm in width, and green when first laid, but turn pink after 8- 24 hours. Eggs turn deeper red as they near hatching, and are a deep iridescent crimson immediately before. Eggs take between 2- 3.5 days to hatch depending on temperature. Larvae that can be found in silk tunnels radiating horizontally from the stems of their host plants immediately below the soil surface. The silk tubes are usually between two or three inches long, depending on the age of the larvae. Larvae normally have 6 instars, but can range from 5- 9, and range from 1.3 mm to 20.8 mm long. The larval stage lasts about 20 days when not overwintering. Pupae can be found in the silk tunnels near base of the plant, or loose in the soil. They are yellow early, and turn dark brown to nearly black before adults eclose. They range from 7.6 mm to 9.6 mm in length. The pupal stage can last from 7- 10 days when not overwintering. Adult moths are 8-9 mm long brown moths with sexual dimorphism, and color patterns that vary based on location. Adults live for about 10 days, and are most active at night.


If you live in the State of Texas, contact your local county agent or entomologist for management information. If you live outside of Texas, contact your local extension for management options.

Damage from the lesser cornstalk borer is caused by feeding, which tunnels into the stem of the plant or girdles the base of the plant. Wilting is one of the early symptoms of infestation, and can result in a poor crop stand. Insecticides can be used to control this pest, but need to be applied to the root zone, either in the seed furrow or banded over the seed bed. Modified planting practices can be used to minimize damage. Insect populations increase later in the growing season, so early planting can help. Tillage and weed control also help minimize insect populations in the environment, but conservation tillage can also help. Conservation tillage can allow larvae to feed freely on crop residue and organic matter, which can spare seedlings.

Related Publications


All JN, Gallaher RN, Jellum MD. 1979. Influence of planting date, preplanting weed control, irrigation, and conservation tillage practices on efficacy of planting time insecticide applications for control of lesser cornstalk borer in field corn. Journal of Economic Entomology 72: 265-268.

Bessin R. 2004. The common stalk borer in corn. University of Kentucky, Entomology. University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY. (5 September 2008)

Biddle AJ, Hutchins SH, Wightman JA. 1992. Pests living below ground, Elasmopalpus lignosellus: Lesser cornstalk borer, pp. 202-203. In McKinley RG. [editor] Vegetable Crop Pests. CRC press, Boca Raton, FL.

Capinera JL. 2001. Handbook of Vegetable Pests. Academic Press, San Diego. 729 pp.

Chang V, Ota AK. 1987. The lesser cornstalk borer: a new important pest of young sugarcane, pp. 27-30 In Annual Report, 1986. Experiment station. Hawaiian Sugar Planter’s Association, Pahala, HI.

Chapin JW. (1999). Lesser cornstalk borer on peanut. Entomology insect information Series. (20 August 2008).

Funderburk JE, Boucias DG, Herzog DC, Sprenkel RK, Lynch RE. 1984. Parasitoids and pathogens of larval lesser cornstalk borers (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) in northern Florida. Environmental Entomology 13: 1319-1323.

Funderburk JE, Herzog DC, Mack TP, Lynch RE. 1985. Sampling lesser cornstalk borer (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) adults in several crops with reference to adult dispersion patterns. Environmental Entomology 14: 452-458.

Gardner WA, All JN. 1982. Chemical control of the lesser cornstalk borer in grain sorghum. Journal of Georgia Entomological Society. 17: 167-171.

Isely D. 1944. The lesser cornstalk borer, a pest of fall beans. Journal of Kansas Entomological Society. 17: 51-57.

Leuck DB. 1966. Biology of the lesser cornstalk borer in south Georgia. Journal of Economic Entomology 59: 797-801.

Luginbill P, Ainslie GG. 1917. The lesser cornstalk borer. U.S. Department of Agriculture Bulletin 539. 27 pp.

Lynch RE, Klun JA, Leonhardt BA, Schwarz M, Garner JW. 1984. Female sex pheromone of the lesser cornstalk borer, Elasmopalpus lignosellus (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae). Environmental Entomology 13: 121-126.

Mack TP, Backman CB. 1984. Effects of temperature and adult age on the oviposition rate of Elasmopalpus lignosellus (Zeller), the lesser cornstalk borer. Environmental Entomology. 13: 966-969.

Mack TP, Davis DP, Backman CB. 1991. Predicting lesser cornstalk borer (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) larval density from estimates of adult abundance in peanut fields. Journal of Entomological Science 26: 223-230.

Mack TP, Davis DP, Lynch RE. 1993. Development of a system to time scouting for the lesser cornstalk borer (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) attacking peanuts in the southeastern United States. Journal of Economic Entomology 86: 164-173.

Metcalf CL, Flint WP, Metalf RL. 1962. Lesser cornstalk borer, pp. 497-498. In Destructive and useful insects. McGraw-Hill Book Company, San Francisco, CA.

Nuessly GS, Webb SE. (2007). Insect management for sweet corn. EDIS (7 May 2020).

Riley CV. 1882. The smaller corn stalk-borer. U. S. Department of Agriculture Report 1881: 142-145.

Sanchez, Louis O. 1960. The biology and control of the lesser cornstalk borer, Elasmopalpus lignosellus.

Schaaf AC. 1974. Jumping borer, Elasmopalpus lignosellus, pp. 31-34. In Handbook of pests of sugarcane. Tech Bull 1/75. Sugar Industry Research Institute Mandeville, Jamaica.

Smith JW Jr, Barfield CS. 1982. Management of preharvest insects, pp. 250- 325. In Pattee HE, Young CT (editors), Peanut science and technology. American Peanut Research Education Society, Yoakum, TX.

Smith Jr JW, Johnson SJ, Sams RL. 1981. Spatial distribution of lesser cornstalk borer eggs in peanuts. Environmental Entomology 10: 192-193.

Smith Jr JW, Johnson SJ. 1989. Natural mortality of the lesser cornstalk borer (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) in a peanut agroecosystem. Environmental Entomology 18: 69-77.).

Tippins HH. 1982. A Review of Information on the Lesser Cornstalk Borer Elasmopalpus lignosellus (Zeller). Georgia Agricultural Experiment Station Special Publication 17. 65 pp.

Bugwood Images

Green Cloverworm

Article author: Pat Porter
Most recently reviewed by: Suhas Vyavhare (1970)

Common Name(s): Black snout moth, Green Cloverworm


Newly hatched larvae are about 0.5 mm long at hatching and are pale and yellow. Older larvae are light green and have two yellowish-white stripes on the side of the body. Green cloverworms have four pairs of prolegs (three pair under the center of the body and one pair at the end of the abdomen), and this makes them easy to differentiate from soybean loopers because loopers have only two pairs of prolegs. Another distinguishing characteristic is that when disturbed, green cloverworms usually exhibit a rapid flopping or squirming behavior. Loopers do not exhibit this behavior. 

Adults are triangular-shaped and brownish to grayish, about 1 – 1.4 inches in length. They have a relatively long snout. Females have more silver coloration than do males.

Green cloverworm adult.

Green cloverworm adult. Patrick Porter

Origin and Distribution

North America.

Habitat & Hosts

Green cloverworm is a defoliator and capable of removing large amounts of leaf tissue very quickly when present in significant numbers. It is usually a sporadic pest in Texas. Eggs are about 0.5 mm in diameter and are laid singly on the undersides of leaves. Small larvae may only eat the lower tissue of a leaf and leave the upper tissue intact; this is known as skeletonizing. Larger larvae chew all the way through leaf tissue and can eat all of the leaf blade except the larger veins. Green cloverworms are usually not pod feeders, but can damage pods (depending on pod maturity), especially when all available leaf tissue has been consumed. 

Green cloverworm damage to soybean.

Green cloverworm damage to soybean. Patrick Porter

Life Cycle

Green cloverworms have complete metamorphosis. There is an egg stage, six larval stages (instars), a pupal stage and an adult stage. In Texas there are at least three generations per year.  Overwintering occurs along the Gulf Coast.


If you live in the State of Texas, contact your local county agent or entomologist for management information. If you live outside of Texas, contact your local extension for management options.

Significant yield loss in soybean can occur at 20% defoliation in the podfill stage. Control decisions should be made on leaf damage because there are several defoliating pests of soybean and they may all be contributing to yield loss. In addition to green cloverworm, these species can include soybean loopers, cabbage loopers and velvetbean caterpillars. Soybean growers are referred to Managing Soybean Insects in Texas. 

There are several diseases, especially granulosis virus, that help control populations, and beneficial insects (predators and parasitoids) help in control as well. 

Registered insecticides include several pyrethroids like esfenvalerate, cyfluthrin, bifenthrin, zeta-cypermethrin and lambda-cyhalothrin. Other insecticides include carbaryl, spinosad, acephate and methomyl. Bacillus thuringiensis and Beauveria bassiana can be used for control.

Related Publications

Managing Soybean Insects in Texas.