Sugarcane Pest Management

[Tweet “Some bugs love feasting on sugarcane. Find out who they are! #UFBugs”]Sugarcane is an economically important crop in Florida, ranking behind only the greenhouse/nursery industry and the citrus industry in the state’s agricultural economy. Florida produces about 1.5 million tons of sugar each year!1

Though sugarcane can resist typical subtropical pests, some pests still cause problems and possibly reduce yields.1

Table 1. Insect sugarcane pests in Florida1,2



Sugarcane borer
(Diatraea saccharalis)
  • Bores into the sugarcane stalk, which may cause the stalk to break and make it vulnerable to other pests
  • May kill the shoot (“dead heart”) if it attacks early growth
  • Regular scouting is recommended for early detection and treatment of this pest
White grubs
  • The larva (early stage) of various species of beetle
  • Attack sugarcane from below by eating roots and underground stems
  • More of a problem after the first round of crop production when the sugarcane is regrown from the remains of the initial planting (ratoon sugarcane)
  • The larva of click beetles
  • Affect the first round of planting and usually don’t affect regrowth
  • Attack shoots as well as new buds and roots
Yellow sugarcane aphids
(Sipha flava)
  • Kill sugarcane leaves and alter the plant’s growth pattern, possibly killing the entire plant
  • Can cause plants to regrow less vigorously and produce less sugar
  • Can be biologically controlled with ladybird beetles and flower flies
Lesser cornstalk borer
(Elasmopalpus lignosellus)
  • The larva of the lesser cornstalk borer moth
  • Like the sugarcane borer and wireworms, may cause “dead heart”
  • Attacks the base or underground portion of the plant

These pests are variously controlled through methods such as using resistant plants, field discing, crop rotation, flooding, biological control, and chemical treatments.1 Experts recommend using an integrated pest management approach to controlling pests on sugarcane for both efficient and environmentally sound pest management.2

For more on sugarcane pests and disease, please see

  1. Mark Mossler, Florida Crop/Pest Profile: Sugarcane, PI171, Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 2014,
  2. Ron H. Cherry, Gregg S. Nuessly, and Hardev S. Sandhu, Insect Management in Sugarcane, ENY406, , Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 2015,



Posted: April 11, 2016

Category: Agriculture, Crops, Pests & Disease
Tags: Agriculture Hot Topic, Lesser Cornstalk Borer, Sugarcane, Sugarcane Borer, Sugarcane Pests, White Grubs, Wireworms, Yellow Sugarcane Aphid

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