The Helicoverpa armigera caterpillar was discovered in Brazil’s northeastern state of Bahia last year and spread rapidly to the country’s Cerrado region in 2013. The pest has already cost Brazilian producers up to $900 million in damages to cotton and soybean crops.
DTN has discovered the same pest has already been intercepted thousands of times in the United States over the past few decades. Although it has yet to establish a population here, scientists said the chance of a U.S. invasion of the highly mobile moth is possible.
“I think what the Brazil case demonstrates is how mobile this pest is,” said Rob Venette, a research biologist with USDA’s Forest Service who specializes in invasion biology. “It demonstrates the potential for it to be moved, likely in some form of international trade.”
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) ranks Helicoverpa armigera as a high-priority pest in corn, cotton, small grains and soybeans, and efforts are underway to keep it out of American fields. Should it ever successfully invade the U.S., we’ll know quickly, University of Arizona entomologist Yves Carriere told DTN.