Common Stalk Borer

Symptoms of Common Stalk Borer

Common stalk Borer tunnel in corn stalk
  • Stalk borers tunnel into corn stalks above the soil or climb directly into the whorl resulting in tattered leaves
  • Young plants (VE-V3) may be killed by tunneling below the growing point
  • On older plants (V4-V8), the leaves will usually discolor, wilt, and die if tunneling is between them and the growing point; often called "dead heart"
  • Plants infested after the V8 stage usually show little visible injury
  • Non-lethal infestations in early stage plants cause stunting, tillering, delayed development, and increased frequency of barren plants, reducing yield
dead heart caused by common stalk borer

Dead "heart" (photo above)

Stunted ears caused by common stalk borer

Stunted ears (photo above)

Pest ID

  • Stalk borer larvae are cream to light brown with a dark purple saddle on the forward half of the body
  • Larvae have dark streaks on either side of their heads
Early stage of stalk borer head
  • As larvae grow, the purple becomes dilute and faded
Early stage stalk borer
  • Larvae are about 1/2 inch long when they leave grass and will  reach nearly 2 inches at full development before fall
Late stage stalk borer

Related Species

Several species share the same habitat and may cause similar looking injury


  • Other borers:
European Corn Borer

European Corn Borer - no purple (photo above)

Corn earworm

Corn Earworm - multicolored stripes (photo above)

Hop vine borer

Hop vine borer - no stripe on side of head, burrows up from root (photo above)

Fall Armyworm

Fall Armyworm - multicolored stripes (photo above)

Southwestern Corn Borer

Southwestern Corn Borer - dark spots, no stripe on side of head (photo above)

Lesser Cornstalk Borer

Lesser cornstalk borer - purple bands, not striped (photo above)

Pest Facts and Impact on Crop

  • Latin name: Papaipema nebris
  • Native to North America; may be found in most areas east of the Rockies
  • Sporadic and infrequent pest of corn; incidence increases with no-till or grass weed infestation
  • Highest incidence usually occurs in rows closest to grass field borders, waterways, or terraces with large weeds (e.g., giant ragweed), or in continuous corn
  • Development begins in grasses, but larvae move at about 1400-1700 GDU (base 41 F) to larger hosts, including nearby corn
  • Primary hosts are: corn, quackgrass, giant ragweed, wirestem muhly, tomato and occasionally soybeans
  • Has no known significant natural enemies


Life Cycle

Common stalk borer annual life cycle

Areas Prone to Common Stalk Borer Injury

Areas prone to common stalk borer injury

Management of Common Stalk Borer

  • Tillage or herbicide grass control in the prior fall will reduce ovipositional attractiveness
  • Burning grassy field borders before planting may destroy eggs
  • Begin scouting at about 1300 GDU (41 F base) accumulation since January 1
    • Grassy or weedy field edges, such as shelterbelts, terraces, waterways
    • No-till fields with heavy vegetation prior to burn down
  • Resistance available
    • Use of YieldGard YGCB® may suppress common stalk borer so pesticides are not necessary
  • Pesticide use and timing
    • Most effective if timed when larva are leaving host plants after a herbicide application
    • Maximum 80% effective when used on infested plants, spray only infested areas of the field
    • On corn plants below V6, less than 10% infestation may warrant spot treatment, later than V7 nearly 100% of the plants must be infested to warrant treatment

Logo - YieldGard Corn Borer

YGCB – The YieldGard® Corn Borer gene offers a high level of resistance to European corn borer, southwestern corn borer and southern cornstalk borer; moderate resistance to corn earworm and common stalk borer; and above average resistance to fall armyworm.
YieldGard®, the YieldGard Corn Borer design and Roundup Ready® are registered trademarks used under license from Monsanto Company.