Biggest Vegetable Insect Threats for 2017

Biggest Vegetable Insect Threats for 2017

Close-up of mature diamondback moth

Photo by Lyle Buss

Diamondback moth (DBM), brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB), and thrips are emerging as three of the biggest pests across the country in 2017. Pest problems, however, tend to be localized.


  • DBM populations have shown diamide insecticide resistance development in some areas and should be monitored closely.
  • Corn earworm populations are showing signs of pyrethroid resistance in some areas and also need to be watched closely.
  • Tobacco thrips in North Carolina and Virginia have developed resistance to neonicotinoid seed treatments.
  • The invasive BMSB is expanding its range in the U.S. and will likely be an emerging pest problem for fruiting vegetables in some new areas of the U.S.

[Editor’s note: According to, three new states have severe problems with BMSB — North Carolina, Tennessee, and New York. Four other states are now reporting “agricultural and nuisance problems” that had not before — Michigan, Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina.]

— Thomas Kuhar, Professor and Extension Vegetable, Entomology Specialist, Department of Entomology, Virginia Tech

Adult whitefly is feeding on a tomato leaf. Photo credit: Saioa Legarrea, University of Georgia.


In Florida, it looks as though it will be a bad spring for whitefly-transmitted viruses in tomato and cucurbits. We also are keeping our eyes out for diamondback moth in cabbage and some other cole crops. DBM was very hard to control in the Southeast last year.

— Hugh Smith, UF/IFAS, Assistant Professor of Entomology and Nematology, Vegetable Entomology


In the mid-Atlantic, we have a new invasive species, the allium leafminer. We had major losses in spring onions and fall leeks, and we’ll be paying attention to how this new pest affects our allium crops.

— Shelby Fleischer, Ph.D., Professor of Entomology, Department of Entomology, Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences

New York

We will be keeping an eye out for onion bulb mite (OBM) that has been showing up in allium, including onion, garlic, scallion, shallot, and leek in the Hudson Valley. This season we’ll be looking at both greenhouse and field studies for OBM management using new formulations of onion seed treatments.

— Peter J. Jentsch, Hudson Valley Research Laboratory Director, Senior Extension Associate – Entomology Department of Entomology, Cornell University


Corn earworm is becoming resistant to some Bt sweet corn lines. This should be a cause for concern.

— Tony Shelton, International Professor, Department of Entomology, Cornell University

Close-up of a brown stink bug

Brown marmorated stink bug. Photo by Russ Ottens


Here’s a list of key pests for our growers in Kentucky (plurals below refer to multiple species):

  • Sweet corn: corn earworm, brown marmorated stink bug
  • Field tomato and pepper: Stink bugs, yellow striped armyworm
  • Cucurbit crops: Cucumber beetles, squash bug, and squash vine borer
  • Cole crops: Diamondback moth, imported cabbageworm, cabbage looper, and harlequin bug
  • Potato and sweet potato: Wireworms, white grubs, and Colorado potato beetle (Irish potatoes only)
  • Eggplant: Flea beetles and Colorado potato beetle

— Ric Bessin, Extension Professor, Department of Entomology, University of Kentucky


In Minnesota, we are keeping an eye out for recent invaders:

  • BMSB. We have seen a slight increase in BMSB numbers in recent years (although numbers are still fairly low).
  • Swede midge. We’ve had our first confirmation of swede midge in the state last year.
  • DBM. We will be watching for diamondback moth, as we have had a few reports of resurging populations.

— Chris Philips, Professor, Fruit and Vegetable Entomology, University of Minnesota

Cabbage looper


The Southwest’s season is already well underway. So these pests are already verified as a problem this year.

There have been three major pests for leafy vegetables and cole crops:

  • Lepidopterous larvae complex (consisting of beet armyworm, cabbage looper, corn earworm, and DBM). This season we have experienced serious outbreaks of DBM, and growers have had difficulty controlling them. Growers in Oxnard, CA, also are having problems this year as well. A similar situation occurred in Georgia and Florida last spring/summer.
  • Sweet potato whitefly
  • Western flower thrips

A fourth pest made its presence known this year as well: foxglove aphid. This pest’s pressure was unusually heavy.

— John C. Palumbo, Ph.D., Professor/Extension Specialist, Vegetable Crops, Department of Entomology, University of Arizona


California will start cutting lettuce this month, and we’re seeing problems from these pests:

  1. Lygus bug
  2. Lettuce aphid, green peach aphid, and foxglove aphid in lettuce in central coast region. The consultants and PCAs are seeing greater pressure from these pests (especially foxglove aphid) in certain areas of Salinas Valley this spring.
  3. Western flower thrips in lettuce (certain pockets of Salinas Valley).
  4. Garden symphylan in celery and leafy vegetables in the southern areas of Salinas Valley
  5. Springtails on lettuce in northern areas of Salinas Valley.

— Shimat V. Joseph, IPM Advisor, Cooperative Extension Monterey County, University of California