The Destruction of the Corn Earworm

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INTRODUCTION

Corn earworm, Helicoverpa zea (Boddie) (formerly Heliothis zea) (Lepidoptera: Moctuidae), is one of the most damaging insect crop pest in North America and causes millions of dollars of economic damage each year (Capinera 2000). It is a polyphagous noctuid pest of agricultural crops across the United States that is gaining attention as a pest of field corn (Bohenblust et al. 2013). The moth’s high fecundity, ability to lay between 500 to 3,000 eggs, polyphagous larval feeding habits, high mobility during migration, and a facultative pupal diapause have led to the success of this pest (Fitt 1989). Its preferred oviposition site is maize (Zea mays L.), specifically fresh silks, but when they are not available H. zea readily oviposits on a wide range of host plants (Johnson et al. 1975). During the reproductive stages, the female corn earworm adults are attracted to kairomones produced by corn during the silk production stage (Johnson et al. 1975). Corn is most attractive to corn earworm adults during the silking stage (Johnson et al. 1975). Ovipostion generally occurs on the leaf hairs and the silks (Lingren et al. 1982). This process occurs during the reproductive stage in corn and may range from several day to several weeks. Due to the high value of sweet corn, multiple insecticide applications (12 to 40 insecticide applications) for corn earworm are economically viable. However, the value of field corn is considerably lower (Rector et al. 2002).

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