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General Information

Common names: Tomato fruitworm
Scientific names: Helicoverpa zea, Heliotis zea
Synonyms: Sorghum headworm, Cotton bollworm, Corn earworm

Host plants

Corn, cotton, tomato, pepper, eggplant, okra, tobacco, sorghum, soybeans, and other beans


Worldwide but more prevalent in the tropical areas


The larval feeding damage during the vegetative growth is usually on the tips of the leaves in the developing bud. The leaves become distorted. However, it prefers to feed on the green fruit, entering through its bored hole at the fruit's pedicel. The feeding damage is a watery cavity that contains frass (waste matter), causing the fruit to decay or to ripen prematurely. n


Eggs are pinhead-sized and yellowish-green in color. These are found singly laid near the midrib, usually underneath the leaf. Hatching occurs within about 2-5 days.

Larvae vary in color from bright green, pink, brown, to black, with lighter undersides. Alternating light and dark bands run lengthwise along their bodies, the heads are yellow and the legs are almost black. Mature larvae vary in length, about 3-5 cm. They drop to the ground to burrow into the soil to pupate. The larval stage lasts from 12-24 days.

Pupae are yellowish-green and turn brown as they mature. Pupation takes place under the soil. Pupal period is 12-24 days.

An adult male is yellowish-brown while a female is orange-brown in color. It has a wingspread span of about 3.8cm. Each female may deposit 200-2,000 eggs in her entire lifetime. The total development period from egg to adult is 34-45 days.
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