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Managing tobacco budworms

Managing tobacco budworms

These pests are very mobile, an entomologist said

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Proper identification is important to pest management strategies in crops like soybeans. connected with Dominic Reisig, an entomologist with North Carolina State University, to discuss tobacco budworms and how to manage this insect.

“It gets its name from using tobacco as a host,” he told “In soybeans, the adult moths will fly in when the plant is flowering, lay eggs and then the larvae will consume the flowers and pods.”

These insects look almost identical to corn earworms.

“Soybean growers don’t really distinguish between the two,” he said. “But from what I understand, tobacco budworm populations were a little higher this year and that’s due to multiple factors including the weather and having multiple host crops.”

Looking at the bumps found on abdominal segments will provide clues.

Tobacco budworm caterpillars have bristles on the bumps whereas earworms don’t.

And budworm moths have three dark wing bands compared to earworms, which are mottled with dark brown dots.

Farmers are already implementing agronomic practices to help manage these insects.

Continued used of these methods should help keep populations down, Reisig said.

“Planting early and within the recommended planting window and avoiding the use of broad-spectrum insecticide to keep natural enemies around are examples of things farmers are doing,” he said. “We encourage farmers to scout their fields and work with their crop management team to determine their best course of action.”

Another tool helping keep tobacco budworm populations down is crop genetics.

Cotton is another crop these insects like to feed on and the insects haven’t developed resistance to specific traits, Reisig said.

“In North Carolina, 100 percent of our cotton is Bt, and to this day, the tobacco budworms can’t tell. So, when the moth lays her eggs, all of those larvae die from consuming the Bt cotton.”

For more information on individual pests and how to control them, visit the Pest Management guide.

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