Sugarcane borer

Diatraea saccharalis

Damage to plants

  • ‘Pinhole’ feeding damage and perforations on leaves unfolding from the whorl.
  • Damage to the growing point of young maize plants causing unfolding leaves to wilt, die and turn white, symptoms commonly referred to as ‘dead heart’.
  • Damage to the growing point also results in stunted growth or plant death.
  • Severe boring of the stems weakens plants leading to crop lodging and interference with water and nutrient translocation.
  • Boring in the ears, resulting in kernel damage and increased vulnerability to ear rots.


  • Perforations on leaves emerging from the whorl.
  • Dead heart.
  • Lodging.
  • Stems, midribs, tassels and ears riddled with tunnels as a result of larval boring.

Factors favoring insects / pest development

  • Warm temperatures and light rainfall favor pest survival and development.
  • Reduced tillage agriculture enables the pest to over winter in infested crop debris.
  • Lack of natural predators.

Geographic distribution

  • Diatraea genus is associated with the Gramineae of the Americas.

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