Busseola fusca

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Busseola fusca - hatching larvae (click on image to enlarge it)
Author(s): Paul-andre Calatayud
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Busseola fusca (Fuller, 1901) - (maize stem borer)

This is an important and widespread pest of maize in elevated areas of sub-Saharan Africa. The larvae feed first on the young leaves, then bore into the stems or cobs. Sorghum, millet and sugarcane are also attacked. The feeding activities cause significant yield reductions or can kill the host plant. Yield losses on maize in Cameroon were estimated at around 30% (Ndemah and Schulthess, 2002).

On maize, the eggs are laid into the leaf axils of young plants where the emerging larvae feed on the leaf surface. The damaged leaves show streaks of dead tissue when they grow older. Tunneling by the larvae in the stem can cause the stem to break or the plant to die if the growing point is destroyed. Cobs are mainly attacked during the 2nd generation. The larvae pupate inside the plant and the whole development from egg to mature adult can be completed in about 2 months. However, under unfavorable conditions, the larvae may enter a diapause of several months. There are 2 or 3 generations per year.

For management, sanitation in form of removing and burning (or ploughing) infested plant debris is important. Further, intercropping with a non-host crop (e.g. cassava, legumes) or a trap crop is recommended. The latter should be highly attractive to B. fusca but less suitable for its development. Placing a granular insecticide into the leaf axils is an additional option.

Vernacular names
• Deutsch: Maisstengelbohrer
• English: maize stem borer
African stem borer
maize stalk borer
• Español: barrenador del tallo del maíz
• Français: perceur de la tige du maïs

The adult is active during the night and has a wing-span of around 3 cm. The forewings are brownish with small black marks. The hindwings are greyish white. The larvae grow to a length of about 4 cm and are colourless.

For a review see Calatayud et al., 2014.