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.
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.
ManagementIf 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.
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