Old World bollworm

Old World bollworm

Helicoverpa armigera (Hübner) or Old World bollworm (OWB) is considered a significant plant pest that can affect 180 species of wild and cultivated plants in more than 45 families. Preferred hosts are from the following families:

  • Compositae: hosts include sunflower, artichoke, and chrysanthemum
  • Gramineae: hosts include maize, wheat, rice, sorghum, other small grains, and sugarcane
  • Leguminosae: hosts include peas, beans, and forage legumes
  • Malvaceae:  hosts include cotton, okra, and cacao
  • Solanaceae: hosts include potatoes, tomatoes, bell pepper, and tobacco 

OWB is known to occur in many countries in Africa, Europe, Asia, and Oceania and has recently become established in Brazil, Peru, and Argentina. Annual losses caused by this pest alone are estimated at approximately $5 billion on different crops worldwide.

OWB is closely related to the corn earworm, Helicoverpa zea, which is widespread in the United States. The adult moths of these two pests can be identified to species using morphological characters, however, the larvae of corn earworm and OWB cannot be identified without DNA analysis.

In September 2014, the first U.S. detection of OWB occurred in western Puerto Rico.  APHIS is conducting a variety of activities to protect the continental U.S from this pest.  If introduced into the continental United States, this insect could potentially disrupt commercial production of many major commodities. 

Pest Identification

News and Information



SPRO Letters

Pest Management

Scientific Information


Eileen Smith
National Policy Manager
Telephone: 301-851-2155
Email: Eileen.Y.Smith@aphis.usda.gov


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