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Home > Bugs > Bugs of Vegetables > Corn Earworm

Corn Earworm—Helicoverpa zea

Corn earworm does the most damage to corn and tomatoes but they also feed on several other vegetables, many field crops, some ornamentals, and a wide variety of wild plants. Early caterpillars damage corn by feeding in the terminals of young plants; later caterpillars feed on the kernels of older plants. Tomatoes, and occasionally peppers, are damaged mostly by the larvae boring into the fruit.


corn earworm larvae corn earworm larva corn earworm adult
Corn earworm larvae come in a wide variety of colors, including shades of pink, yellow, green, brown, and black. The color depends to some extent on the host plant. They grow to 1½ to 2 inches. The larvae usually have darker or lighter stripes running lengthwise on the body; small bumps and hairs give it a rough texture. The head capsule is plain golden brown. Corn earworm adults are night flying moths, with a wing-length of approximately 1½ inch. Adult moths are light tan with a distinctive dark spot on each forewing, and a dark band near the margin of the hind wing

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[Photos, left to right: Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University,; Alton N. Sparks, Jr., University of Georgia,; Ronald Smith, Auburn University,]

It is the policy of the State of Maine to minimize reliance on pesticides. The Maine Department of Agriculture and the Maine IPM Council encourage everyone to practice integrated pest management and to use pesticides only as a last resort. The mention of pesticides in the fact sheets linked to these pages does not imply an endorsement of any product. Be sure that any product used is currently registered and follow all label directions.