Earworms Have Sweet Tooth

Recent storms from the Gulf of Mexico have brought not only rains, but also corn earworm moths to Indiana, says a Purdue University expert, and sweet corn growers need to be vigilant spraying to protect their crop.

These moths love their veggies, including sweet corn, but have arrived several months earlier than normal. These corn earworm moths are here several months earlier than normal, which means there are fewer crops ready to attract them. "We are seeing counts that are much higher in our traps than typical and the ramification for that is damage to sweet corn — at a time we don’t normally see it,” says Rick Foster, Purdue Extension entomologist.

This year, sweet corn that’s silking will be like a magnet drawing in all the moths in an area. Even relatively low numbers of moths flying around can cause a lot of damage because they are all coming to one field to lay their eggs.

Sweet corn growers that have corn or crops in a vulnerable stage, which means green silks are present on the plant, need to be spraying now. Corn earworm, also known as cotton bollworm or tomato fruitwrm, typically feeds on sweet corn, soybeans, and tomatoes. Corn earworm larvae usually enter corn ears through the tip, not the side or shank like European corn borers and fall armyworms, and prefer to feed on the tips of corn ears, bean pods, and tomato fruit.

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