Field Guide     Pest Management     Sugarcane Beetle

Sugarcane Beetle

CROPS IMPACTED: corn, turfgrass, sugarcane, rice, sweet potatoes


Family: Scarabaeidae

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About the Sugarcane Beetle

Reproduction and Life Cycle

The sugarcane beetle has one generation annually. They overwinter as adults, usually in dry soil. They will mate while still in the soil and then surface early in April. The females will lay eggs in the ground, typically in clusters of 3 to 4. A female can lay 100 eggs throughout their lifetime. The eggs will take about 14 days to mature; the larvae will then hatch. A larva develops through 3 instars, feeding on dead plants in the soil. This stage of development will last for roughly 2 months. At this point they will pupate in the soil for 14 days, emerging as an adult in the middle of September

Sugarcane Beetle Identification and Habitat


Sugarcane beetles usually grow to be about 12 to 15mm in length. They are a dull black and have a hard outer shell that is shaped like a dome. The legs of this beetle have thick spines and are quite robust as they are designed for digging. The abdomen has little indents that look like stripes that run vertically along the body. The sugarcane beetle egg is white, smooth, and oval shaped. As it matures, it will grow to be about twice its original size and become more spherical in shape. The larvae have a large size range, growing from anywhere between 5 and 32mm. They are creamy white with a red head, brown legs and a dark brown abdomen. They have 6 yellow legs and typically move into a C-shape when bothered. The pupa is around 19mm in length and is also white in colour; however, as time passes, it will change to a light brown.


The sugarcane beetle is found in the southern states and mainly feeds off of crops such as sugarcane and corn. They tend to eat the plants roots and the base of the stem, often below the soils surface. They will chew through the stalk’s walls until the plant is left with ragged holes fairly large in size. This can stunt the plants growth and damages the growing point, which can cause terminal leaves to die and reduces the plants yield drastically; especially if seedlings are attacked (many will not survive). The adults are known to cause the most damage. The larvae mainly just eat soil contents, not greatly affecting crop production. When corn plants are infested, as long as they are fed on once they have reached a height of 1 meter or higher, they can recover fairly quickly. When the adults attack turfgrass, they eat the roots and crowns, which in turn will create tunneling in the ground and can turn the grass brown and will eventually kill it. They often travel from turfgrass to fields that are close by to infest crops.

Sugarcane Beetle Management and Control Methods

Cultural Control

Avoid planting corn or other crops that the sugarcane beetle is attracted to in areas where sod used to be, as this is where many beetles will spend their time. Also, use quality and certified seeds, and plant early with good fertilization. In doing this, your plants will grow faster and stronger, increasing their ability to withstand the effects of the sugarcane beetle. It is important to note that having satisfactory control is often dependent on using an integrated management system that includes the use of both cultural and chemical methods.

Chemical Control

For chemical control of the sugarcane beetle, it is advised to use neonicotinoid for seed treatment (e.g., Poncho), and also an in-furrow treatment, such as organophosphates or pyrethroids (e.g., Talstar, Menaace, Battle, Tempo, or Scimitar). The beetles are nocturnal and feed during the night, meaning you should apply the insecticides late in the day in order to have the best results. Be sure to carefully read the insecticide label for cautions and proper application.

Latin / Alternative Sugarcane Beetle Names

  • - Euetheola humilis
  • - Rough-headed cornstalk borer