sustainability through science & innovation

Native budworms – we’re watching!

A network of traps across eastern Australia is poised to track the arrival of budworm moths; just as well since reports from the inland Australia suggest we could experience a large migration this year 


A collaborative trapping program for native budworm moths across eastern Australia is continuing in 2016 and is aimed at focusing monitoring efforts in pulse and canola crops this spring.

Trapping network

Native budworm (Helicoverpa punctigera) is a serious pest of pulses and sometimes canola. Budworm moths are capable of migrating hundreds if not thousands of kilometres in winter and spring. Typically, moths migrate into the cropping zone from the north or north-west, often originating from arid, inland regions that have previously benefited from episodic rainfall events in autumn and winter. 

cesar is collaborating with colleagues from SARDI, QDAF, the University of New England and agronomists and growers in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia to provide this advanced warning system for native budworm infestations in the eastern cropping zone. In some areas, traps for the cotton bollworm (H. armigera) are also in place.

Native budworm moths invade the cropping zone from late winter each year (Source: cesar)


A sparsely distributed network of pheromone traps has now been established throughout the cropping regions of eastern Australia. The traps are baited with a synthetic sex pheromone that specifically attracts native budworm moths, and provides an indication of current female egg-laying activity. From this network, we can provide an overview of moth activity for the southern New South Wales and Victorian regions. Previous research has shown that moth catch peaks can be directly related to egg-laying peaks, although surges in egg-laying do occasionally occur in the absence of peak moth catches.

Worrying news from the inland

Drs. Peter Greg and Alice del Socorro, researchers from the University of New England, have been undertaking field surveys for native budworm in the north of SA and southwest Qld over late winter. Using sweep nets to sample from native ephemeral plants, they have found very large numbers of native budworm, and its less important cousin, the lesser armyworm (H. punctifera), throughout the entire inland region. Peter has not observed such large numbers in many years, and believes that breeding will continue given the enduring inland rain.

Assuming typical spring winds to relocate moths, this suggests that the southern cropping zone is likely to experience a big year for native budworm.

Moth catch data

MothTrapVis is a new interactive graphic tool that we have developed through the National Pest Information Service (NPIS) to present the relative size of moth catches at each trap location. The tool is available to explore the changing distribution of moth catches over time. Locations of trapping network for native budworm and cotton bollworm traps are marked with an x. 


Native budworm catches since early August (see the legend for size of moth catch). The graph shows total catches across the network since early winter. Click on the map to go to a live link.


Native budworm catches for the week ending 2nd Sep 2016. Click on the map to go to a live link. 


The first substantial moth catches of the season in Victoria were recorded in the Victorian Mallee and to a lesser extent the Wimmera, following strong winds on 18th August. Moderate catches have persisted in the Mallee, and are probably being driven by SA populations of moths. Egg-laying will be in full swing in Mallee crops. As yet, there are no records of moth catches in southern NSW.

For more information on native budworm including its biology and management visit our PestNote.



We thank the following for providing various forms of support to this forecast service:

Institutional Support

Drs. Peter Gregg and Alice del Socorro  – School of Environmental & Rural Science, University of New England (Armidale)

Bill Kimber – SARDI (South Australia)

Trap operators

Brad Bennett  – Consultant, AGRIvision (Victorian Mallee)

Jim Cronin – Agronomist, Landmark (NSW Central West Slopes and Plains)

Bill Gardner  – Agronomist and grower (Victorian Wimmera)

Shayn Healey – Agronomist, Crop-Rite Pty Ltd (Victorian Mallee)

George Hepburn  – Agronomist, Tylers Hardware & Rural Supplies (Victorian Wimmera)

Damian Jones – Agronomist, Agronomic Results (Victorian Mallee)

Jake Leith – Agronomist, AGRIvision (Victorian Wimmera)

David White – Agronomist, Delta Agribusiness (NSW Riverina)

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