Ecology of the stalk borer Papaipema nebris (Guenee), (Lepidoptera:noctuidae), in the southwestern Virginia no-till corn agroecosystem

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


The stalk borer (SB), Papaipema nebris Gn. exhibited from 7 to 9 instars when reared on a meridic diet in a control-led environment. Both sexes went through variable numbers of instars before pupation. Head capsule width measurements did not form discrete sets, and overlap occurred between adjacent instars.

In feeding preference tests with first instar larvae using either leaf disks or stem sections, higher numbers of larvae fed on grasses, such as orchardgrass, Dactylis glomerata L. or fescue, Festuca arundinacea Schreb., compared to numbers feeding on other plants. In no-choice laboratory and field tests, larvae tunnelled into plant stalks at the same frequency by which they would feed on foliage, showing a tendency to tunnel into plants they accept as hosts. Third or fourth instar larvae preferred to tunnel into orchardgrass and rye, Secale cereale Lover the other plants present in field cage tests.

The SB prefers to oviposit on narrow leaved, perennial grasses, such as fescue and orchardgrass, over wide leaved annual grasses or broadleaf plants. Significantly higher numbers of eggs were laid on upright over prostrate plants in cage studies. The SB also preferred ovipositing on desiccating or dry plant material.

Higher numbers of SB infested corn seedlings were found next to field margins compared to numbers found within fields. Contour and transect maps of SB infested fields showed considerable aggregation over three years, and this distribution was confirmed by high variance to mean ratios, and small k values. SB distribution in no-till corn can be adequately described by the negative binomial model.

Field collections of SB in corn stalks showed 2, 3, or 4 instar larvae infesting the youngest seedlings. Variation existed in larval development from year to year. Linear regression covariance analysis showed that larval development was different between field collected larvae from year to year.