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Native budworm

Native budworm (Helicoverpa punctigera) is a major pest of a variety of crops during spring and early summer. The larvae feed on buds, flowers, fruiting parts and seeds, and will attack field peas, faba beans, lentils, chickpeas, lupins and canola crops, as well as pasture seed crops of lucerne, annual medic and clover. Native budworm breed on desert flowering plants in inland regions of Australia, provided there has been sufficient winter rainfall to stimulate plant growth. After emergence from these breeding grounds, the moths take advantage of north-westerly winds and migrate to the southern and eastern cropping regions during early spring. When moths arrive and lay eggs onto crops the resulting caterpillars can cause serious damage if left uncontrolled.

Growers and advisers should now be on the lookout for signs of native budworm in crops. In previous years, moths have been detected from late-August onwards across many regions, particularly those closest to inland Australia. The use of pheromone traps (which attract male moths) provides an early warning of moth arrival and abundance. These should be set up in late winter or early spring. A sweep net or beat sheet should be used to monitor larval activity in crops. Monitor field pea, faba bean, lentil and chickpea crops from budding and flowering development through to maturity for larval activity. Monitor narrow leaf lupin and canola crops at pod development to maturity.

When larvae are detected, it is important to sample representative parts of the entire crop prior to making a control decision. Eggs laid by moths will take at least 2 weeks before they hatch and grow to a size of approximately 5 mm where the caterpillars can be detected whilst sweep netting crops. It typically takes about 7 weeks from the time of egg laying until caterpillars are fully-grown.

Native budworm larvae can be up to 40 mm long with substantial colour variation (shades of brown, green and orange), usually with darkish strips along the body and bumpy skin with sparse stiff black hairs. Newly hatched larvae are light in colour with dark brown heads and spots, and as they develop they become darker in colour. Adult moths are approximately 30-35 mm long, light brown to red-brown, with numerous dark spots and blotches.

Click here for further information on the native budworm.

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