Sugarcane Beetle

Injury/Pest Symptoms

Corn seedlings injured by sugarcane beetles

Corn seedlings injured by sugarcane beetles

  • Sugarcane beetle adults move into corn from nearby grassy areas
  • Adults often infest corn within 45 days of planting
  • Adults, not larvae, cause the damage to young corn (seedling to 24 inches)
  • Adults feed slightly below the soil surface
  • Injury may destroy the growing point; terminal leaves may die, causing “deadheart”; plant may tiller and be stunted
  • Stunted and tillered plants are essentially “weeds” and nonproductive
  • Severe damage may kill plants
  • Large infestations substantially reduce plant population


Sugarcane beetle feeding at base of corn plant

Sugarcane beetle feeding at base of corn plant (photo above)

Injured corn due to sugarcane beetles

Sugarcane beetle feeding injury at base of corn plant (photo above)

Plant population reduction from sugarcane beetles

Plant population reduction from sugarcane beetles¹ (photo above)

Similar Species

May or June beetle

May or June beetle: ¾ inch long; color often dark brown or reddish brown,
rarely black; often hairy on ventral side between legs (photo above)

Southern masked chafer

Southern masked chafer: ½ inch long; color often yellowish brown, never
black; area between eyes a black “mask” (photo above)

Pest Facts of Sugarcane Beetle

Sugarcane beetle

Sugarcane beetle²

  • Latin name: Euetheola humilis (also known as Euetheola rugiceps)
  • Description
    • Adults are shiny black beetles, 12-16 mm (1/2 inch) long
    • Larvae are white grubs with red or brown head; curved into “C” shape
  • Similar species:
    • May or June beetles, Phyllophaga spp.
    • Southern masked chafer, Cyclocephala lurida
  • Origin and distribution:
    • Native to North America
    • Primarily southern pest; not known to damage corn north of Kentucky and Virginia

Pest Status/Importance

  • Sporadic pest of seedling corn in southern U.S.
  • Recent problems in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia
  • Planting corn following grass sod or pasture increases potential for damage
  • Damage may be worse in minimum till or no-till fields
  • Also pest of rice, sugarcane, sweet potato, strawberry


Sugarcane beetle feeding at base of corn seedling

Sugarcane beetle feeding at base of corn seedling³

Life History of Sugarcane Beetle

  • One generation per year
  • Adults overwinter in soil, usually in grassy areas or small grain fields
  • Adults become active in spring (April) and fly into corn fields
  • Females lay 100 eggs in soil during spring
  • Larvae feed on decaying plant debris and grass roots
  • Larval development requires 57 days
  • Corn roots are very poor host; few larvae survive
  • Adults emerge in Sept/Oct, then enter hibernation

Management of Sugarcane Beetle

Integrated Pest Management Practices

  • Planting location
    • Avoid planting corn into sod or grassy fields
    • Avoid minimum or no-till practices in grassy areas
  • Planting time
    • Plant early and fertilize properly to encourage vigorous seedling growth to minimize seedling injury when beetles arrive in field
  • Insecticides/Seed treatments
    • High rates (1250) of seed treatments may give “good”, but not “excellent” plant protection
    • Low rates (250 and 500) of seed treatments may give “fair” to “poor” plant protection
    • In fields at risk or with history of damage:
      • Use high rate of seed treatment (i.e. 1250)
      • planting granular soil insecticide (T-banded)
      • Use combination of low-rate seed treatment and liquid soil insecticide banded at planting
    • Do not spray insecticides after beetles arrive in fields and/or damage occurs to seedlings
  • Scouting
    • No scouting programs have been developed that would predict at-risk fields or the potential for damage

Best Management Practices Using Pioneer Products

  • Plant Pioneer® brand corn hybrids treated with Poncho® 1250 / VOTiVO
  • Plant Pioneer corn hybrids treated with Cruiser Extreme® 250 and use a granular or liquid soil insecticide at planting

Photo Credits:

¹Kathy Flanders, Auburn University

²Mike Quinn,

³Clemson University - USDA Coop. Extension Slide Series,

Marlin E. Rice, Pioneer Hi-Bred International


Poncho® and VOTiVO® are registered trademarks of Bayer.

Cruiser Extreme® is a registered trademark of a Syngenta Group Company.