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Datasheet

Helicoverpa zea
(American cotton bollworm)

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Datasheet

Helicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 19 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Natural Enemy
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Helicoverpa zea
  • Preferred Common Name
  • American cotton bollworm
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Arthropoda
  •       Subphylum: Uniramia
  •         Class: Insecta

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Helicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); a normal, 12-day-old cotton bollworm larva raised on a control diet. USA.
TitleLarva
CaptionHelicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); a normal, 12-day-old cotton bollworm larva raised on a control diet. USA.
Copyright©Peggy Greb/USDA Agricultural Research Service/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Helicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); a normal, 12-day-old cotton bollworm larva raised on a control diet. USA.
LarvaHelicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); a normal, 12-day-old cotton bollworm larva raised on a control diet. USA.©Peggy Greb/USDA Agricultural Research Service/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Helicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); larval damage under bloom. USA.
TitleLarval damage
CaptionHelicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); larval damage under bloom. USA.
Copyright©Ronald Smith/Auburn University/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Helicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); larval damage under bloom. USA.
Larval damageHelicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); larval damage under bloom. USA.©Ronald Smith/Auburn University/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Helicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); larva and larval damage to tomato fruit. USA. June 2017.
TitleLarva
CaptionHelicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); larva and larval damage to tomato fruit. USA. June 2017.
Copyright©C.Watts/via flickr - CC BY 2.0
Helicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); larva and larval damage to tomato fruit. USA. June 2017.
LarvaHelicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); larva and larval damage to tomato fruit. USA. June 2017.©C.Watts/via flickr - CC BY 2.0
Helicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); late instar larva on cotton boll (Gossypium hirsutum). USA.
TitleLarva
CaptionHelicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); late instar larva on cotton boll (Gossypium hirsutum). USA.
Copyright©Ronald Smith/Auburn University/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Helicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); late instar larva on cotton boll (Gossypium hirsutum). USA.
LarvaHelicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); late instar larva on cotton boll (Gossypium hirsutum). USA.©Ronald Smith/Auburn University/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Helicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); full grown larva on cotton boll. USA.
TitleLarva
CaptionHelicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); full grown larva on cotton boll. USA.
Copyright©Scott Bauer/USDA Agricultural Research Service/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Helicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); full grown larva on cotton boll. USA.
LarvaHelicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); full grown larva on cotton boll. USA.©Scott Bauer/USDA Agricultural Research Service/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Helicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); larva in the field, on cotton (Gossypium hirsutum). USA.
TitleLarva
CaptionHelicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); larva in the field, on cotton (Gossypium hirsutum). USA.
Copyright©Russ Ottens/University of Georgia/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Helicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); larva in the field, on cotton (Gossypium hirsutum). USA.
LarvaHelicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); larva in the field, on cotton (Gossypium hirsutum). USA.©Russ Ottens/University of Georgia/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Helicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); larval damage to corn ear (Zea mays). USA.
TitleLarval damage
CaptionHelicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); larval damage to corn ear (Zea mays). USA.
Copyright©Whitney Cranshaw/Colorado State University/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Helicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); larval damage to corn ear (Zea mays). USA.
Larval damageHelicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); larval damage to corn ear (Zea mays). USA.©Whitney Cranshaw/Colorado State University/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Helicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); larva and larval damage to corn ear (Zea mays). USA. April 2017.
TitleLarval damage
CaptionHelicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); larva and larval damage to corn ear (Zea mays). USA. April 2017.
Copyright©Scot Nelson/via flickr - CC BY 2.0
Helicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); larva and larval damage to corn ear (Zea mays). USA. April 2017.
Larval damageHelicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); larva and larval damage to corn ear (Zea mays). USA. April 2017.©Scot Nelson/via flickr - CC BY 2.0
Helicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); larva and larval damage to a corn ear (Zea mays). USA.
TitleLarval damage
CaptionHelicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); larva and larval damage to a corn ear (Zea mays). USA.
Copyright©Eric R. Day/Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Helicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); larva and larval damage to a corn ear (Zea mays). USA.
Larval damageHelicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); larva and larval damage to a corn ear (Zea mays). USA.©Eric R. Day/Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Helicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); larva in the field, feeding on a panicle of pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum). USA.
TitleLarva
CaptionHelicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); larva in the field, feeding on a panicle of pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum). USA.
Copyright©Russ Ottens/University of Georgia/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Helicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); larva in the field, feeding on a panicle of pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum). USA.
LarvaHelicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); larva in the field, feeding on a panicle of pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum). USA.©Russ Ottens/University of Georgia/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Helicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); pupa, in field, on soyabean (Glycine max). USA. September 2011.
TitlePupa
CaptionHelicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); pupa, in field, on soyabean (Glycine max). USA. September 2011.
Copyright©Adam Sisson/Iowa State University/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Helicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); pupa, in field, on soyabean (Glycine max). USA. September 2011.
PupaHelicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); pupa, in field, on soyabean (Glycine max). USA. September 2011.©Adam Sisson/Iowa State University/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Helicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); adult. Cuivre River State Park, Missouri USA. September 2014.
TitleAdult
CaptionHelicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); adult. Cuivre River State Park, Missouri USA. September 2014.
Copyright©Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren/via wikipedia - CC BY 2.0
Helicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); adult. Cuivre River State Park, Missouri USA. September 2014.
AdultHelicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); adult. Cuivre River State Park, Missouri USA. September 2014.©Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren/via wikipedia - CC BY 2.0
Helicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); adult.
TitleAdult
CaptionHelicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); adult.
CopyrightPublic Domain - Released by the USGS Bee Inventory & Monitoring Lab.
Helicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); adult.
AdultHelicoverpa zea (American cotton bollworm); adult.Public Domain - Released by the USGS Bee Inventory & Monitoring Lab.
Helicoverpa armigera (cotton bollworm); a parasitic wasp attacks a caterpillar, laying a single egg inside and marking the caterpillar with her own chemical scent.
TitleNatural enemy
CaptionHelicoverpa armigera (cotton bollworm); a parasitic wasp attacks a caterpillar, laying a single egg inside and marking the caterpillar with her own chemical scent.
Copyright©USDA-ARS
Helicoverpa armigera (cotton bollworm); a parasitic wasp attacks a caterpillar, laying a single egg inside and marking the caterpillar with her own chemical scent.
Natural enemyHelicoverpa armigera (cotton bollworm); a parasitic wasp attacks a caterpillar, laying a single egg inside and marking the caterpillar with her own chemical scent.©USDA-ARS

Identity

Top of page

Preferred Scientific Name

  • Helicoverpa zea (Boddie, 1850)

Preferred Common Name

  • American cotton bollworm

Other Scientific Names

  • Bombyx obsoleta Fabricius
  • Chloridea obsoleta Fabricius
  • Heliothis armigera auct.nec Huebner Hübner
  • Heliothis ochracea Cockerell
  • Heliothis umbrosa Grote
  • Heliothis zea Boddie
  • Phalaena zea (Boddie)

International Common Names

  • English: bollworm, American; corn earworm; cotton bollworm; tomato fruitworm
  • Spanish: bellotero; elotero; gusano bellotero del algodon; gusano de la bellota del algodón; gusano de la mazorca; gusano de la mazorca del maiz; gusano de las cápsulas; gusano del elote del maíz; gusano del fruto del tomate; gusano elotero; noctua del tomate; oruga de la mazorca
  • French: chenille des epis du mais; noctuelle de la tomate; noctuelle des tomates; ver de la capsule; ver de l'épi du maïs

Local Common Names

  • Argentina: isoca del maiz
  • Brazil: lagarta da espiga do milho; lagarta das espicas
  • Denmark: amerikansk bomuldsugle
  • Germany: Amerikanischer Baumwollkapselwurm; Wurm, Amerikanischer Baumwollkapsel-
  • Italy: elotide del cotone; elotide del granturco; elotide del pomodoro; elotide del tomato; nottua del granturco; nottua gialla del granturco
  • Netherlands: Mimosa-rups
  • Turkey: yesil kurt

EPPO code

  • HELIZE (Helicoverpa zea)

Taxonomic Tree

Top of page
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Arthropoda
  •             Subphylum: Uniramia
  •                 Class: Insecta
  •                     Order: Lepidoptera
  •                         Family: Noctuidae
  •                             Genus: Helicoverpa
  •                                 Species: Helicoverpa zea

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Top of page The taxonomic situation regarding H. zea is complicated and presents several problems. Hardwick (1965) reviewed the New World corn earworm species complex and the Old World African bollworms, most of which had previously been referred to as a single species (Heliothis armigera or H. obsoleta), and pointed out that there was a complex of species and subspecies involved. Specifically, he proposed that the New World H. zea (first used in 1955) was distinct from the Old World H. armigera on the basis of male and female genitalia; he described the new genus Helicoverpa to include these important pest species. Some 80 or more species were formerly placed in Heliothis (sensu lato) and Hardwick referred 17 species (including 11 new species) to Helicoverpa on the basis of differences in both male and female genitalia. Within this new genus the zea group contains eight species, and the armigera group two species with three subspecies (Hardwick, 1970).

Because the old name of Heliothis for the pest species (four major pest species and three minor) is so well established in the literature, and since dissection of genitalia is required for identification, there has been resistance to the name change (for example, Heath and Emmet, 1983), but Hardwick's work is generally accepted and so the name change must also be accepted (Matthews, 1991).

Description

Top of page Egg

Eggs are subspherical, radially ribbed, 0.52 mm high and 0.59 mm in diameter, stuck singly to the plant substrate, green when laid, turning red and finally grey before hatching. Egg maturity takes 2-3 days at 20-30°C. Eggs are usually located on the silk of maize, or on fruiting structures.

Larva

On hatching, the tiny grey caterpillars have a black head; they grow through six instars usually, but five and seven instars are not uncommon, and the final body size is approximately 40 mm long. In the third instar, two colour phases can develop: brown (the predominant phase) and green (less frequent). Longitudinal lines of white, cream or yellow are present, and the spiracular band is the most distinct. As the larvae develop, the pattern becomes better defined, but in the final instar (sixth) the coloration changes abruptly into a bright pattern, often pinkish, and with extra striations. Larvae have 5 pairs of prolegs.

Pupa

Pupae are light to dark brown depending on maturity and approximately 20 mm long, with two distinct terminal cremaster spines. Pupae are located 5-15 cm below the soil surface in earthen cells.

Adult

A stout-bodied (20-25 mm long) brown moth of wing-span 38-43 mm; forewing pale brown (female) to greenish (male) with darker transverse markings, underwings pale with a broad dark marginal band.

Distribution

Top of page H. zea is confined to the New World. It occurs throughout the Americas from Canada to Argentina (IIE, 1993).

Distribution Table

Top of page

The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

Asia

ChinaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-AnhuiPresentLu and Liang, 2002

North America

BermudaPresentEPPO, 2014
CanadaRestricted distributionEPPO, 2014
-British ColumbiaPresentEPPO, 2014
-ManitobaPresentEPPO, 2014
-New BrunswickPresentEPPO, 2014
-Nova ScotiaPresentEPPO, 2014
-OntarioPresentEPPO, 2014
-QuebecPresentEPPO, 2014
-SaskatchewanPresentEPPO, 2014
MexicoWidespreadEPPO, 2014
USAWidespreadEPPO, 2014
-AlabamaPresentEPPO, 2014
-ArizonaPresentEPPO, 2014
-ArkansasPresentEPPO, 2014
-CaliforniaPresentEPPO, 2014
-ColoradoPresentEPPO, 2014
-ConnecticutPresentEPPO, 2014
-DelawarePresentEPPO, 2014
-FloridaPresentEPPO, 2014
-GeorgiaPresentEPPO, 2014
-HawaiiPresentEPPO, 2014
-IdahoPresentEPPO, 2014
-IllinoisPresentEPPO, 2014
-IndianaPresentEPPO, 2014
-IowaPresentEPPO, 2014
-KansasPresentEPPO, 2014
-KentuckyPresentEPPO, 2014
-LouisianaPresentEPPO, 2014
-MainePresentEPPO, 2014
-MarylandPresentEPPO, 2014
-MassachusettsPresentEPPO, 2014
-MichiganPresentEPPO, 2014
-MinnesotaPresentEPPO, 2014
-MississippiPresentEPPO, 2014
-MissouriPresentEPPO, 2014
-MontanaPresentEPPO, 2014
-NebraskaPresentEPPO, 2014
-NevadaPresentEPPO, 2014
-New HampshirePresentEPPO, 2014
-New JerseyPresentEPPO, 2014
-New MexicoPresentEPPO, 2014
-New YorkPresentEPPO, 2014
-North CarolinaPresentEPPO, 2014
-North DakotaPresentEPPO, 2014
-OhioPresentEPPO, 2014
-OklahomaPresentEPPO, 2014
-OregonPresentEPPO, 2014
-PennsylvaniaPresentEPPO, 2014
-Rhode IslandPresentEPPO, 2014
-South CarolinaPresentEPPO, 2014
-South DakotaPresentEPPO, 2014
-TennesseePresentEPPO, 2014
-TexasPresentEPPO, 2014
-UtahPresentEPPO, 2014
-VermontPresentEPPO, 2014
-VirginiaPresentEPPO, 2014
-WashingtonPresentEPPO, 2014
-West VirginiaPresentEPPO, 2014
-WisconsinPresentEPPO, 2014
-WyomingPresentEPPO, 2014

Central America and Caribbean

Antigua and BarbudaPresentEPPO, 2014
BahamasPresentEPPO, 2014
BarbadosPresentEPPO, 2014
Costa RicaPresentEPPO, 2014
CubaPresentEPPO, 2014
DominicaPresentEPPO, 2014
Dominican RepublicPresentEPPO, 2014
El SalvadorPresentEPPO, 2014
GuadeloupePresentEPPO, 2014
GuatemalaPresentEPPO, 2014
HaitiPresentEPPO, 2014
HondurasPresentEPPO, 2014
JamaicaPresentEPPO, 2014
MartiniqueWidespreadEPPO, 2014
MontserratPresentEPPO, 2014
NicaraguaPresentEPPO, 2014
PanamaPresentEPPO, 2014
Puerto RicoPresentEPPO, 2014
Saint Kitts and NevisRestricted distributionEPPO, 2014
Saint LuciaPresentEPPO, 2014
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesPresentEPPO, 2014
Trinidad and TobagoWidespreadEPPO, 2014
United States Virgin IslandsPresentEPPO, 2014

South America

ArgentinaPresentEPPO, 2014
BoliviaPresentEPPO, 2014
BrazilPresentEPPO, 2014
-GoiasPresentMarchiori et al., 2002
-Minas GeraisPresentEPPO, 2014
-ParaPresentEPPO, 2014
-ParanaPresentEPPO, 2014
-PernambucoPresentEPPO, 2014
-Rio de JaneiroPresentEPPO, 2014
-Rio Grande do SulPresentEPPO, 2014
-Santa CatarinaPresentEPPO, 2014
-Sao PauloPresentEPPO, 2014
ChileWidespreadEPPO, 2014
-Easter IslandPresentOlivares et al., 2011
ColombiaPresentEPPO, 2014
EcuadorWidespreadEPPO, 2014
Falkland IslandsPresent, few occurrencesEPPO, 2014
French GuianaPresentEPPO, 2014
GuyanaPresentEPPO, 2014
ParaguayWidespreadEPPO, 2014
PeruPresentEPPO, 2014
SurinamePresentEPPO, 2014
UruguayWidespreadEPPO, 2014
VenezuelaPresentEPPO, 2014

Europe

SwitzerlandAbsent, intercepted onlyEPPO, 2014
UKAbsent, intercepted onlySeymour and, 1978

Risk of Introduction

Top of page

H. zea was recently added to the EPPO A1 list of quarantine pests, and is also considered as a quarantine pest by APPPC. Originally, H. zea was considered as practically synonymous with H. armigera, an A2 quarantine pest (EPPO/CABI, 1996). The addition to the EPPO list harmonizes it with EU Directive Annex I/A1.

Phytosanitary Measures

For the related H. armigera, EPPO (EPPO, 1990) makes recommendations on phytosanitary measures which would also be suitable for H. zea. According to these, imported propagation material should derive from an area where H. armigera does not occur or from a place of production where H. armigera has not been detected during the previous 3 months.

Bibliographies are included in the monograph by Hardwick (1965) (2000 titles on H. zea), and the reviews by Fitt (1989) (194 titles), and King and Coleman (1989) (159 references). Most of the basic research on H. zea was done in the early 1900s and published under early synonyms. Many references to H. zea are made in publications relating to the cultivation/protection of specific crops, for example, Chiang (1978), COPR (1983), and Pitre (1985).

Hosts/Species Affected

Top of page H. zea is polyphagous in feeding habits but it shows a definite preference in North America for young maize cobs and tassels, and particularly for the cultivars grown as sweetcorn and popcorn, and also for Sorghum. Most hosts are recorded from the Poaceae, Malvaceae, Fabaceae and Solanaceae; in total more than 100 plant species are recorded as hosts. A feeding preference is shown for flowers and fruits of host plants.

For further information see Barber (1937), Neunzig (1963), Davidson and Peairs (1966) and Matthews (1991).

Host Plants and Other Plants Affected

Top of page
Plant nameFamilyContext
Abelmoschus esculentus (okra)MalvaceaeMain
Abutilon theophrasti (velvet leaf)MalvaceaeOther
Amaranthus (amaranth)AmaranthaceaeOther
Arachis hypogaea (groundnut)FabaceaeOther
Brassica oleracea (cabbages, cauliflowers)BrassicaceaeOther
Brassica oleracea var. botrytis (cauliflower)BrassicaceaeOther
Brassica oleracea var. capitata (cabbage)BrassicaceaeOther
Cajanus cajan (pigeon pea)FabaceaeMain
Capsicum (peppers)SolanaceaeOther
Capsicum annuum (bell pepper)SolanaceaeMain
Chenopodium quinoa (quinoa)ChenopodiaceaeOther
Cicer arietinum (chickpea)FabaceaeOther
CitrusRutaceaeOther
Cucumis melo (melon)CucurbitaceaeOther
Cucumis sativus (cucumber)CucurbitaceaeOther
Fragaria (strawberry)RosaceaeOther
Fragaria ananassa (strawberry)RosaceaeOther
Geranium carolinianum (Carolina geranium)GeraniaceaeOther
Gerbera (Barbeton daisy)AsteraceaeOther
Glycine max (soyabean)FabaceaeMain
Gossypium (cotton)MalvaceaeMain
Helianthus annuus (sunflower)AsteraceaeMain
Ipomoea purpurea (tall morning glory)ConvolvulaceaeOther
Lactuca sativa (lettuce)AsteraceaeOther
Lamium amplexicaule (henbit deadnettle)LamiaceaeOther
Lespedeza juncea var. sericea (Sericea lespedeza)FabaceaeOther
Lonicera japonica (Japanese honeysuckle)CaprifoliaceaeWild host
Medicago lupulina (black medick)FabaceaeOther
Medicago sativa (lucerne)FabaceaeOther
Nicotiana tabacum (tobacco)SolanaceaeOther
Panicum miliaceum (millet)PoaceaeOther
Phaseolus (beans)FabaceaeMain
Phaseolus vulgaris (common bean)FabaceaeMain
Salix (willows)SalicaceaeOther
Securigera varia (crown vetch)FabaceaeOther
Solanum lycopersicum (tomato)SolanaceaeMain
Solanum melongena (aubergine)SolanaceaeMain
Sorghum bicolor (sorghum)PoaceaeMain
Spinacia oleracea (spinach)ChenopodiaceaeOther
Trifolium (clovers)FabaceaeOther
Trifolium incarnatum (Crimson clover)FabaceaeOther
Vicia sativa (common vetch)FabaceaeOther
Vicia villosa (hairy vetch)FabaceaeWild host
Vigna unguiculata (cowpea)FabaceaeOther
Zea mays (maize)PoaceaeMain
Zea mays subsp. mays (sweetcorn)PoaceaeMain

Growth Stages

Top of page Flowering stage, Fruiting stage, Vegetative growing stage

Symptoms

Top of page Fruiting structures are consumed or damaged and feeding damage also facilitates entry by diseases and other insect pests. In cotton the square (flower bud), flowers and young bolls are attacked and larvae excavate the interior. Young shoots and leaves can also be damaged, especially in the absence of fruiting structures.

Young maize plants have serial holes in the leaves following whorl feeding on the apical leaf. On larger plants the silks are grazed and eggs can be found stuck to the silks. As the ears develop, the soft milky grains in the top few centimeters of the cobs are eaten; usually only one large larva per cob can be seen. Ear damage is often localized to the tip but can increase the incidence of disease.

Sorghum heads are grazed. Legume pods are holed and the seeds eaten. Bore holes can be seen in tomato fruits, cotton bolls, cabbage and lettuce hearts, and flower heads.

List of Symptoms/Signs

Top of page
SignLife StagesType
Fruit / external feeding
Fruit / internal feeding
Growing point / external feeding
Growing point / internal feeding; boring
Inflorescence / external feeding
Inflorescence / internal feeding
Leaves / external feeding
Seeds / external feeding
Seeds / internal feeding

Biology and Ecology

Top of page Eggs are laid mostly on the silks of maize plants in small numbers (one to three), stuck to the plant tissues. Choice of oviposition site by the female seems to be governed by a combination of physical and chemical cues. Female fecundity can be dependent upon the quality and quantity of larval food, and also on the quality of adult nutrition. Up to 3000 eggs have been laid by a single female in captivity, but 1000-1500 per female is more usual in the wild. Hatching occurs after 2-4 days and the eggs change colour from green through red to grey. The tiny grey larvae first eat the eggshell and after a short rest they wander actively for a while before starting to feed on the plant. They usually feed on the silks initially and then on the young tender kernels after entering the tip of the husk. By the third instar the larvae become cannibalistic and usually only one larva survives per cob. Feeding damage is typically confined to the tip of the cob. Larval development usually takes 14-25 (mean 16) days, but under cooler conditions 60 days are required. In the final instar (usually sixth) feeding ceases and the fully fed caterpillar leaves the cob and descends to the ground. It then burrows into the soil for some 10-12 cm and forms an earthen cell, where it rests in a prepupal state for a day or two, before finally pupating. Two basic types of pupal diapause are recognized, one in relation to cold and the other in response to arid conditions. In the tropics pupation takes 10-14 (mean 13) days; the male takes 1 day longer than the female. Diapausing pupae are viable as far north as 40-45°N in the USA.

Adults are nocturnal in habit and emerge in the evenings. Maize fields in the USA regularly produce 40,000 to 50,000 adult moths per hectare. Flying adults respond to light radiation at night and are attracted to light traps (Hardwick, 1968), especially the ultraviolet type, in company with many other local noctuids. Sex aggregation pheromones have been identified and synthesized for most of the Heliothis/Helicoverpa pest species, and pheromone traps can be used for population monitoring. Adult longevity is recorded as being about 17 days in captivity; they drink water and feed on nectar from both floral and extra-floral nectaries. The moths fly strongly and are regular seasonal migrants, flying hundreds of kilometres from the USA into Canada. They migrate by flying high with prevailing wind currents.

The life cycle can be completed in 28-30 days at 25°C and in the tropics there may be up to 10-11 generations per year. All stages of the insect are to be found throughout the year if food is available, but development is slowed or stopped by either drought or cold. In the northern USA there are only two generations per year, in Canada only one generation.

For more information, see Hardwick (1965), Beirne (1971), Balachowsky (1972), Allemann (1979), King and Saunders (1984) and Fitt (1989).

Means of Movement/Dispersal

H. zea is a facultative seasonal nocturnal migrant, and adults migrate in response to poor local conditions for reproduction, when weather conditions are suitable. Three types of movement are practiced by Helicoverpa moths: short-range, long-range, and migration. Short-range dispersal is usually within the crop and low over the foliage, and largely independent of wind currents. Long-range flights are higher (up to 10 m), further (1-10 km), and usually downwind, from crop to crop. Migratory flights occur at higher altitudes (up to 1-2 km) and may last for several hours. The moths can be carried downwind hundreds of kilometres; 400 km is not uncommon for such a flight. There is now evidence that many of them originate in Mexico as young adults and migrate northwards into the USA in the early spring. Probably three generations are required to effect the annual displacement from Mexico up to southern Ontario. Transatlantic dispersal is clearly a possibility for this moth, although it has not yet been demonstrated.

Air-freight transportation of agricultural produce from the New World to Europe is an ever increasing commercial enterprise, especially with vegetables and ornamentals. Almost every year, caterpillars of H. zea are intercepted on this produce in the UK (Seymour, 1978).

Natural enemies

Top of page
Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Agelaius phoeniceus Predator
Archytas marmoratus Parasite Larvae/Pupae
Aspergillus niger Antagonist
Bacillus circulans Pathogen Larvae
Bacillus subtilis Pathogen Larvae
Bacillus thuringiensis Pathogen Larvae
Bacillus thuringiensis alesti Pathogen Larvae
Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis Pathogen Larvae
Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki Pathogen Larvae
Bacillus thuringiensis thuringiensis Pathogen Larvae
baculo-like virus Pathogen
Baculovirus heliothis Pathogen
Beauveria bassiana Pathogen
Brachymeria ovata Parasite Pupae
Calleida decora Predator Larvae
Calosoma sayi Predator Larvae
Campoletis flavicincta Parasite
Campoletis grioti Parasite
Campoletis sonorensis Parasite
Cardiochiles nigriceps Parasite Larvae
Cardiochiles seminiger Parasite Larvae
Chelonus curvimaculatus Parasite Larvae
Chelonus insularis Parasite Larvae
Chelonus narayani Parasite Larvae Hawaii
Chrysoperla carnea Predator
Chrysoperla rufilabris Predator
Coleomegilla maculata Predator
Collops quadrimaculatus Predator
Cotesia congregata Parasite Larvae
Cotesia kazak Parasite Larvae
Cotesia marginiventris Parasite Larvae
Cytoplasmic polyhedrosis virus (CPV) Pathogen Larvae
cytoplasmic polyhedrosis viruses Pathogen Larvae
Diapetimorpha introita Parasite
Encarsia porteri Parasite Eggs
Entomophaga aulicae Pathogen
Erythemis simplicicollis Predator
Eucelatoria bryani Parasite Larvae Hawaii
Eucelatoria rubentis Parasite
Euphorocera edwardsii Parasite Larvae
Euplectrus comstockii Parasite
Euplectrus platyhypenae Parasite
Geocoris punctipes Predator Eggs
Geocoris uliginosus Predator Eggs
Glabromicroplitis croceipes Parasite Larvae
Helicoverpa armigera nuclear polyhedrosis virus Pathogen Adults/Larvae
Heliothis nucleopolyhedrosis virus Pathogen
Hippodamia convergens Predator
Hyposoter exiguae Parasite
Ichneumon promissorius Parasite
Iridovirus Pathogen Larvae
Lebia analis Predator Larvae
Lespesia aletiae Parasite Larvae
Lespesia archippivora Parasite Larvae
Leuconostoc mesenteroides Pathogen
Metagonistylum minense Parasite Larvae
Metaphidippus galathea Predator
Metarhizium anisopliae Pathogen
Meteorus autographae Parasite Larvae
Microchelonus blackburni Parasite Larvae
Microplitis demolitor Parasite Larvae
Microplitis rufiventris Parasite Larvae
Nabis alternatus Predator
Nabis roseipennis Predator
Nemorilla pyste Parasite Larvae
Nomuraea rileyi Pathogen Larvae USA; South Carolina soyabeans
Notoxus monodon Predator
Nucleopolyhedrosis virus Pathogen Larvae
Orius insidiosus Predator Eggs Hawaii
Orius tristicolor Predator
Oxyopes salticus Predator
Paecilomyces tenuipes Pathogen
Palexorista laxa Parasite Larvae
Paratriphleps laeviusculus Predator USA cotton; maize; tomatoes
Peucetia viridana Predator
Phidippus audax Predator
Philonthus alumnus Predator
Phyllobaenus pubescens Predator
Podisus connexivus Predator
Podisus maculiventris Predator
Podisus placidus Predator
Polistes metricus Predator
Pristomerus spinator Parasite
Pseudatomoscelis seriatus Predator
Rogas perplexus Parasite Larvae
Solenopsis invicta Predator
Spanagonicus albofasciatus Predator
Staphylococcus epidermidis Pathogen
Steinernema carpocapsae Parasite
Steinernema feltiae Parasite
Steinernema riobravis Parasite
Telenomus remus Parasite
Telenomus spodopterae Parasite Eggs
Trichogramma atopovirilia Parasite Eggs
Trichogramma brevicapillum Parasite Eggs
Trichogramma chilonis Parasite Eggs
Trichogramma deion Parasite Eggs
Trichogramma evanescens Parasite Eggs
Trichogramma exiguum Parasite Eggs
Trichogramma maltbyi Parasite Eggs
Trichogramma minutum Parasite Eggs
Trichogramma nagarkattii Parasite Eggs
Trichogramma parkeri Parasite Eggs
Trichogramma perkinsi Parasite Eggs
Trichogramma pretiosum Parasite Eggs California; Nicaragua; Nova Scotia; Texas; USA; Texas cotton
Trichogramma thalense Parasite Eggs
Vairimorpha necatrix Pathogen
Vespula pensylvanica Predator
virus-like particles
Winthemia rufiventris Parasite Larvae
Xanthomonas maltophilia Pathogen
Zelus tetracanthus Predator

Notes on Natural Enemies

Top of page Kogan et al. (1989) provides a full list of natural enemy records.

Impact

Top of page In North America it is reported that H. zea is the second most important economic pest species (preceded by codling moth, Cydia pomonella) (Hardwick, 1965). Fitt (1989) quotes the estimated annual cost of damage by H. zea and H. virescens together on all crops in the USA as more than US$ 1000 million, despite the expenditure of US$ 250 million on insecticide application.

Reasons for the success and importance of this agricultural pest include its high fecundity, polyphagous larval feeding habits, high mobility of both larvae locally and adults with their facultative seasonal migration, and a facultative pupal diapause.

Damage is usually serious and costly because of the larval feeding preference for the reproductive structures and growing points rich in nitrogen (for example, maize cobs and tassels, sorghum heads, cotton bolls and buds, etc), and they have a direct influence on yield. Many of the crops attacked are of high value (cotton, maize, tomatoes). If this pest should become established in protected cultivation economic damage could be widespread.

Infestations of maize grown for silage or for grain are not of direct economic importance; losses are typically about 5% and no control measures are taken, but they serve as a focus, or reservoir of infestation. In many areas the first generation is not regarded as a pest (often on Trifolium) and it does not become an economic pest on cultivated crops until the second, third or even fourth generation.

Detection and Inspection

Top of page Feeding damage is usually visible and the larvae can be seen on the surface of plants but often they are hidden within plant organs (flowers, fruits, etc). Bore holes may be visible, but otherwise it is necessary to cut open the plant organs to detect the pest. Because of morphological similarity, it is impossible to distinguish the larvae of H. zea from those of Heliothis armigera, already present in the EPPO region. Positive identification is achieved by rearing the larvae and examining the genitalia of the adult.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

Top of page The adults are similar in appearance to Heliothis armigera, but differ in several details in their genitalia (Hardwick, 1965); dissection and slide-mounting are required for specific determination, and some aspects are comparative so that a series of closely related species have to be available for comparison.

Prevention and Control

Top of page

Introduction

Control of H. zea has been advocated in the USA since the middle of the nineteenth century, and measures fall into two broad categories: those aimed at an overall pest population reduction, and others aimed at the protection of a particular crop. In most situations it is now recommended that integrated pest management be used (Bottrell, 1979).

Cultural Control

Various cultural practices can be used to kill the different instars, including deep ploughing, discing and other methods of mechanical destruction, manipulation of sowing dates and use of trap crops.

Biological Control

In many areas, natural control of this pest may be quite effective for most of the time. Insect parasitoids attack the eggs (especially Trichogramma spp.) and larvae, and some predators can be important in reducing pest populations. King and Coleman (1989) discuss the prospects for long-term biological control of Heliothis/Helicoverpa spp., and clearly this should be an important component of any regional IPM programme.

The most frequently tried method of achieving biological control has been by augmentative releases of artificially reared parasites or predators, especially using Trichogramma spp. However, releases in cotton have not been consistently effective against heliothine populations. Microplitis croceipes could be more effective because it is less affected by organophosphate pesticides and synthetic pyrethroids.

There has also been interest in exploiting entomophagous pathogens such as Bacillus thuringiensis and Heliothis NPV. In cotton, maize and tomato, transgenic crop varieties expressing the active Bacillus thuringiensis toxin have been used commercially.

A commercial formulation of the nuclear polyhedrosis virus Baculovirus heliothis gave control that was equal to chemical methods. However, the cost of virus applications was higher than chemical control methods. (Martinez and Swezey, 1988).

Host-Plant Resistance

The development of crop cultivars resistant or tolerant to damage by Heliothis and Helicoverpa spp. has major potential in their management, particularly for communities with few resources. Many crops possess some genetic potential that can be exploited by breeders to produce varieties less subject to pest damage. Resistance can take three basic forms: antixenosis, antibiosis and tolerance. Varieties of crop hosts showing resistance to Heliothis or Helicoverpa have been identified or developed in cotton, chickpeas, soyabean, tomato, maize, sorghum, millet and tobacco.

In maize, resistant genotypes have been identified which have a high concentration of maysin (rhamnosyl-6-C-(4-ketofucosyl)-5,7,3',4'-tetrahydroxyflavone), a C-glycosyl flavone, in silk tissue. Quantitative trait loci for maysin production were identified on chromosomes 1 (p1) and 9 (umc105a) (Byrne et al., 1996).

In cotton, gossypol glands on the calyx crowns of flower buds confers considerable resistance to H. zea (Calhoun et al., 1997).

Transgenic maize containing genes encoding delta-endotoxins from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) kurstaki have been commercialized in the USA. Feeding studies using Cry1A(c) toxins demonstrated transformed cotton plants are highly toxic to first-fourth instars of H. zea, but not to fifth instar larvae. Movement of fifth instar larvae from non-Bt plants to Bt-cotton plants in mixed stands could result in feeding and injury to Bt plants (Halcomb et al., 1996). A new type of toxin called vegetative insecticidal proteins (vip) has been isolated from Bacillus thuringiensis during the vegetative phase of growth which shows a wide spectrum of activities against lepidopteran insects, especially noctuids such as H. zea (Estruch et al., 1996).

There is little knowledge of the interactions between natural enemies of Heliothis or Helicoverpa and host-plant resistance, but it cannot be assumed that resistance will always be compatible with natural control. For example, laboratory tests using resistant tomato plants containing an alkaloid (alpha-tomatine) were found to be toxic to Hyposoter exiguae, a parasite of H. zea. The parasite acquired the alkaloid from its host after the host had ingested the alkaloid (Campbell and Duffey, 1979).

Chemical Control

Chemical control of the larvae has been the most widely used and generally successful method of pest destruction on most crops, but it is not easy because of larvae feeding within plant structures. The early history of chemical control of corn earworms is given by Hardwick (1965), while COPR (1983) includes a list of 29 insecticides effective for the control of Heliothis/Helicoverpa spp. at the recommended rates given. Pesticide resistance has been known for some years and is quite widespread (Fitt, 1989) especially on cotton crops.

For cotton, chemicals recommended for control include sulprofos, profenofos, thiodicarb, chlorpyrifos, acephate, amitraz and pyrethroids. Several Bacillus thuringiensis sprays are also recommended (Anon., 1997).

For maize, oil applied to silks reduces H. zea damage to the ear. Applications are generally made 3 days after silk emergence and applied on a weekly basis until silk dry down.

Sterile Backcrosses

Sterile male offspring are produced when certain species are crossed, for example, Heliothis subflexa and H. virescens. This fact has been exploited and evaluated on the island of St Croix, Virgin Islands, where after a 3-year release program, suppression was achieved.

Pheromonal Control

Mating of H. zea was reduced by 50% in a 12 ha maize field treated with hollow fibres containing (Z)-9-tetradecenyl formate (Mitchell and McLaughlin, 1982). Likewise, (Z)-11-hexadecenal, a component of the Heliothis virescens pheromone, reduced the mating of females of H. zea by 85% (Mitchell et al., 1976).

References

Top of page

Allemann DV, 1979. Maize pests in the USA. In: Hafliger E, ed. Maize. Basle, Switzerland: CIBA-GEIGY Ltd., 58-63.

Anon., 1997. Insect Control Guide. Ohio, USA: Meister Publishing Co., 442 pp.

Balachowsky AS, ed. , 1972. Entomology applied to agriculture. Tome II. Lepidoptera. Second volume. Zygaenoidea-Pyraloidea-Noctuoidea. Entomologie appliquee a l'agriculture. Tome II. Lepidopteres. Deuxieme volume. Zygaenoidea-Pyraloidea-Noctuoidea. Paris, France: Masson et Cie, pp 1059-1634.

Barber GW, 1937. Seasonal availability of food plants of two species of Heliothis in eastern Georgia. Journal of Economic Entomology, 30:150-158.

Beirne BP, 1971. Pest insects of annual crop plants in Canada. I. Lepidoptera. II. Diptera. III. Coleoptera. Memoirs of the Entomological Society of Canada, 78:124 pp.

Bottrell DG, 1979. Guidelines for integrated control of maize pests. FAO, Plant Production and Protection Paper No. 91. Rome, Italy: FAO.

Byrne PF, McMullen MD, Snook ME, Musket TA, Theuri JM, Widstrom NW, Wiseman BR, Coe EH, 1996. Quantitative trait loci and metabolic pathways: genetic control of the concentration of maysin, a corn earworm resistance factor, in maize silks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 93(17):8820-8825; 38 ref.

CABI/EPPO, 1998. Distribution maps of quarantine pests for Europe (edited by Smith IM, Charles LMF). Wallingford, UK: CAB International, xviii + 768 pp.

Calhoun DS, Jones JE, Dickson JI, Caldwell WD, Burris E, Leonard BR, Moore SH, Aguillard W, 1997. Registration of 'H1244' cotton. Crop Science, 37(3):1014-1015; 6 ref.

Campbell BC, Duffey SS, 1979. Tomatine and parasitic wasps: potential incompatibility of plant antibiosis with biological control. Science, 205(4407):700-702.

Chiang HC, 1978. Pest management in corn. Annual Review of Entomology, 23:101-123.

COPR, 1983. Pest Control in Tropical Tomatoes. London, UK: COPR.

Davidson RH, Peairs LM, 1966. Insect Pests of Farm, Garden and Orchard (6th edition). New York, USA: Wiley.

EPPO, 1990. Specific quarantine requirements. EPPO Technical Documents, No. 1008. Paris, France: European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization.

EPPO, 2014. PQR database. Paris, France: European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization. http://www.eppo.int/DATABASES/pqr/pqr.htm

Estruch JJ, Warren GW, Mullins MA, Nye GJ, Craig JA, Koziel MG, 1996. Vip3A, a novel Bacillus thuringiensis vegetative insecticidal protein with a wide spectrum of activities against lepidopteran insects. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 93(11):5389-5394; 23 refs.

Fitt GP, 1989. The ecology of Heliothis species in relation to agroecosystems. Annual Review of Entomology, 34:17-52.

Halcomb JL, Benedict JH, Cook B, Ring DR, 1996. Survival and growth of bollworm and tobacco budworm on nontransgenic and transgenic cotton expressing a CryIA insecticidal protein (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae). Environmental Entomology, 25(2):250-255; 29 ref.

Hardwick DF, 1965. The corn earworm complex. Memoirs of the Entomological Society of Canada, 40:1-247.

Hardwick DF, 1968. A brief review of the principles of light trap design with a description of an efficient trap for collecting noctuid moths. Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society, 22:65-75.

Hardwick DF, 1970. A generic revision of the North American Heliothidinae (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae). Memoirs of the Entomological Society of Canada, 73:1-59.

Heath J, Emmet AM, ed. , 1983. The moths and butterflies of Great Britain and Ireland. Volume 10. Noctuidae (Cuculliinp to Hypeninp) and Agaristidae. The moths and butterflies of Great Britain and Ireland. Volume 10. Noctuidae (Cuculliinp to Hypeninp) and Agaristidae. Harley Books Colchester UK, 459 pp.

IIE, 1993. Distribution Maps of Pests, Series A No. 373 (1st revision). Wallingford, UK: CAB International.

King ABS, Saunders JL, 1984. The invertebrate pests of annual food crops in Central America. A guide to their recognition and control. London, UK: Overseas Development Administration.

King FG, Coleman RJ, 1989. Potential for biological control of Heliothis species. Annual Review of Entomology, 34:53-75.

Kogan M, Helm CG, Kogan J, Brewer E, 1989. Distribution and economic importance of Heliothis virescens and Helicoverpa zea in North, Central, and South America and of their natural enemies and host plants. In: King EG, Jackson RD, eds. Proceedings of the workshop on the biological control of Heliothis: increasing the effectiveness of natural enemies. New Delhi, India: USDA, Far East Regional Office, 241-297.

Lu YongYue, Liang GuangWen, 2002. Spatial pattern of cotton bollworm (Helicoverpa zea) eggs with geostatistics. Journal of Huazhong Agricultural University, 21(1):13-17.

Marchiori CH, Oliveira AMS, Costa MCR, 2002. Insects collected in maize crop in Itumbiara, south of Goiás state, Brazil. (Insetos coletados em cultivar de milho em Itumbiara, sul de Goiás, Brasil.) Arquivos do Instituto Biológico (São Paulo), 69(Suplemento, Resumos expandidos):233-234. http://www.biologico.sp.gov.br/ARQUIVOS/V69_supl_RE/marchiori.PDF

Martinez R, Swezey SL, 1988. Control of Heliothis zea (Boddie) larvae with a nuclear polyhedrosis virus (Baculovirus heliothis) in cotton, Leon, Nicaragua 1983. Revista Nicaraguense de Entomologia, 2:13-18.

Matthews M, 1991. Classification of the Heliothinae. NRI Bulletin No. 44. Chatham, Kent: Natural Resources Institute.

Mitchell ER, Baumhover AH, Jacobson M, 1976. Reduction of mating potential of male Heliothis spp. and Spodoptera frugiperda in field plots treated with disruptants. Environmental Entomology, 5(3):484-486.

Mitchell ER, McLaughlin JR, 1982. Suppression of mating and oviposition by fall armyworm and mating by corn earworm in corn, using the air permeation technique. Journal of Economic Entomology, 75(2):270-274.

Neunzig HH, 1963. Wild host plants and parasites. Journal of Economic Entomology, 52:135-139.

Olivares TS, Angulo AO, Badilla Q R, 2011. Taxonomic notes and new register of moths for Easter Island (Lepidoptera: Noctuoidea). Entomological News, 122(2):157-164. http://www.bioone.org/loi/entn

Pitre HN, 1985. Insect problems on sorghum in the USA. Proceedings of the international sorghum entomology workshop, 15-21 July 1984, Texas A & M University, College Station, Texas, USA. Patancheru, Andhra Pradesh, India: International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, 73-81.

Seymour PR, ed. , 1978. Insects and other invertebrates intercepted in check inspections of imported plant material in England and Wales during 1976 and 1977. Insects and other invertebrates intercepted in check inspections of imported plant material in England and Wales during 1976 and 1977. Plant Pathology Laboratory. Harpenden, Herts. UK, [2+] 54 pp.

Smith IM, McNamara DG, Scott PR, Holderness M, 1997. Quarantine pests for Europe. Second Edition. Data sheets on quarantine pests for the European Union and for the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization. Quarantine pests for Europe. Second Edition. Data sheets on quarantine pests for the European Union and for the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization., Ed. 2:vii + 1425 pp.; many ref.

Links to Websites

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GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gatewayhttps://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.m93f6Data source for updated system data added to species habitat list.

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