Native budworm activity in 2022

During winter, the native budworm (Helicoverpa punctigera) breeds on flowering plants in inland Australia.

When this inland vegetation dies off in late winter/spring, the larvae pupate, and moths emerge and migrate vast distances to agricultural regions. They then lay eggs in crops, and it is the ensuing larval population that cause damage, feeding on the fruiting parts and seeds of plants, particularly in pulses and canola.

Here we provide an update on native budworm activity for 2022.

Moth activity this season

With the help of volunteers, we have established a limited number of native budworm moth traps in some grain growing regions of south-eastern Australia (see table below).

These moth traps use the female moth’s pheromone to attract male moths.

Please keep in mind that the number of moths caught doesn’t reflect the risk to crops, however they do provide an indication of the timing of native budworm flights and activity in south-eastern Australia.

Mallee VICMallee VICNorthern VICNorthern VICCentral VICRiverina NSWRiverina NSWCentral West NSWCentral West NSW
Swan HillKerangDookieDevenishSkiptonDeniliquinHentyCowraParkes
Week ending
12-AugTrap set-up
19-Aug40Trap set-upTrap set-up
26-Aug1101Trap set-up
2-Sep4200Trap set-up1
9-Sep530Trap set-upTrap set-upTrap set-up00
16-SepTrap set-up004402
Number of native budworm moths caught in moth traps with pheromone lures over a week (approximately). Counts may sometimes be made outside the stated time frame. *Count represents fortnightly catch.

Monitor for larval activity

Monitoring is the best way to get an indication of larvae numbers in crops.

Monitor pulse and canola crops regularly using sweep nets; it is important to sample representative parts of the entire paddock prior before making a control decision.

Taking multiples of 10 sweeps within at least five locations in a paddock is recommended.

For information on the economic thresholds for this pest, please see the native budworm Pestnote.

So far, we haven’t had any reports of larval activity to the PestFacts south-eastern team, but if you have seen otherwise let us know!

What to expect in a wet year

The Bureau of Meteorology has declared a La Niña in 2022 for the third year in a row. With much of eastern Australia expected to receive above average rainfall this spring you may be wondering how this may impact native budworm.

Helicoverpa moth species lay their eggs singly or in groups of twos or threes near the growing points of plants, but not all eggs will make it to the damaging caterpillar stage. There are several factors that can impact egg survival, including rain.

A study by Kyi et al. (1991) demonstrated clear effects of rain on egg mortality of the closely related Helicoverpa armigera in cotton.In this field trial study, the effect of simulated and actual rain was assessed. Rainfall was deemed an important factor in causing egg loss due to dislodgment from the plants.

However, while rain events help to suppress native budworm larvae in crops, wet conditions can also mean that some crops will continue to remain attractive to budworm for longer. The continued migration of moths through spring is probable and as long as crops are green, they are at risk and will need to be monitored.


Thanks to our network of native budworm trappers: Shayn Healey, Damien Jones, Bruce Larcombe, Ben Cameron, Adam Dellwo, David White, Andrew Rice, Laing Whinfield and Tim Condon.

Cover image: Photo by Andrew Weeks, Cesar Australia

What is Pestfacts south-eastern?

PestFacts south-eastern keeps growers and advisers informed about invertebrate pests and beneficials in broadacre crops and pastures during the winter-cropping season in Victoria and southern New South Wales.


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Since 2019 PestFacts south-eastern has been running through IPMforGrains: Best Practice Insect Pest Management, a project delivered by the National Pest Information Network (Cesar Australia, DPIRD, QDAF, NSW DPI, and SARDI). This project aims to provide grain growers and advisors with information on invertebrate grain pest occurrence and equip industry with the knowledge needed to implement integrated pest management practices. This initiative is a GRDC investment and includes in-kind contributions from all project partner organisations.

The online PestFacts south-eastern collection also includes a selection of articles published between 2015 – 2018 when the service was run through a previous GRDC investment, The National Pest Information Service.

PestFacts south-eastern is supported by