Tobacco Budworm (Helicoverpa virescens) The tobacco budworm is sometimes called the geranium budworm because of its tendency to infest geraniums, petunias, and other garden flowers. They attack buds of developing flowers, which causes damaged buds not to open. The flowers that do emerge have a ragged, chewed look.
The damage they can cause to geraniums and petunias has lead some areas of the country to completely discontinue the use of these flowers. They are also one of the most devastating insects to agriculture crops, especially cotton and tobacco. Millions of dollars are spent annually to attempt to control this pest on cotton and tobacco because they are resistant to most insecticides. The adult moths are light green with a brown tinge and a few wavy, light bands.
The females lay single eggs on buds or leaves of host plants in the early evenings. The caterpillars that emerge vary in color from red to green to brown and are marked by several stripes. The tobacco budworms survive the winter as pupae in the soil.
Photo courtesy of Clemson University Department of Entomology, Soils & Plant Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service.
For control products and more information please see our Caterpillars and Moths Control page.