Sunflower Bud Moth
SF bud moth
Sunflower bud moth

The sunflower bud moth (Suleima helianthana Riley) has been found throughout the production region. Historically, it has not been of economic significance. The adult moths are gray-brown with a wingspread of about 0.63 inch with two dark traverse bands on the forewings. The larva has a dark head capsule with a smooth, cream-colored body and is 0.31 to 0.43 inch at maturity.

sf bud moth larva
Sunflower bud moth larva

Life Cycle: There are two generations of the bud moth. Adults generally emerge the last week of May and early June and begin egg laying on sunflower plants. The larvae begin tunneling into the sunflower plant and black frass or excrement can be found at the entrance hole. The larvae pupate within the plant and move to the opening of the plant and the adult emerges. A second generation occurs in late July and August.
SF moth damage
Damage on head from
sunflower bud worm larvae

Damage: Typically, damage occurs mostly in the stalk. However, in 2008 sunflower bud moth emergence was delayed and larvae were found in the bud causing injury to the developing head. The only time yield loss is noticeable is when larvae burrow into unopened buds, preventing proper head development. The larvae normally do not feed on developing seeds but confine feeding activities to the fleshy part of the head. The second generation has not been of economic significance.

Economic Thresholds: This insect has not been of economic significance, thus there are no thresholds established.

Scouting Method: None has been established.

Management: Insecticide use is NOT recommended for control of sunflower bud moth larvae since they are feeding within the plant. As a result, insecticides will have limited efficacy. There are no recommendations for controlling the adult bud moth.

Research: If the bud moth becomes an economic factor, the NSA will be prepared to fund research to establish management of the adult or larvae.

Photos: Visit the Photo Gallery.

Source: NDSU Extension Bulletin 25 Sunflower Production Handbook, NDSU Extension Service, September 2007 and personal communication with Dr. Jan Knodel, NDSU Extension Entomologist.
Additional Resource
NDSU Extension Bulletin 25 - Revised 9/2007 file size: 5591 kb

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