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The larva of the moth Helicoverpa zea (formerly in the genus Heliothis) is a major agricultural pest, found in temperate and tropical regions of the world, mainly in North America. (Helicoverpa armigera, a close relative of H. zea, is a major pest in Asia, Africa and Australia). Helicoverpa zea larvae feed most commonly on corn, but do eat over 100 different plant species as well. Accordingly, the species has been given many different common names. When the larva consumes cotton, it is known as the cotton bollworm. When it consumes corn, it is known as the corn earworm. When it consumes tomatoes, it is known as the tomato fruitworm. Typically the larvae feed on blossoms, buds and fruits, which are often the harvestable portion of valuable crops, and annoyingly, they often feed for just a short time on one fruit before moving on to damage another. Helicoverpa zea overwinters in the pupal stage. Within North America H. zea does not successfully overwinter in states with severe winters (for example, on the east coast, further north than New Jersey) but more northern states will harbor immigrant populations depending on winter severity. Cold states will have only one generation per year, while the warmest areas, for example southern Florida, can have up to seven. Helicoverpa zea is most destructive to crops in states where it can overwinter. The impact of this pest has been and continues to be significant, especially because of the wide range of crops attacked, and the natural abundance of the species in the wild. Several forms of management are used, including planting resistant hybrid crops and spraying chemical insecticides and biological insecticides, such as Bacillus thuringiensiskurstaki (Bt). Natural predators such as the big-eyed bug (Geocoris), the minute pirate bug (Orius), and the spotted lady beetle (Coleornegillamaculata), and parasitic wasps Trichogramma also help keep populations in check.

(Capinera, 2000; Cook and Weinzierl 2004; Hagerman 2011; Wikipedia 2011)


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