Sugarcane Beetle | Euetheola humilis rugiceps (LeConte)

California Pest Rating  for
Sugarcane Beetle example
Sugarcane Beetle | Euetheola humilis rugiceps (LeConte)
Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae
Pest Rating: A


Initiating Event:

Euetheola humilis rugiceps is currently Q-rated.  A permanent pest rating proposal is required to support an official pest rating.

History & Status:

Background:  Adult sugarcane beetles are black and approximately 1.5 cm in length.  Larvae are white, C-shaped grubs that live underground (Hammond, 2002).  Adults feed underground on roots and stems of a variety of plants, including corn, sorghum, sugarcane, sweet potatoes, rice, and turfgrass.  This causes significant economic damage to these crops, especially sweet potato and corn (Billeisen and Brandenburg, 2014; Guagliumi, 1960; Smith et al., 2015).  For example, losses of up to 30% of corn plants have been reported, and damage to sweet potatoes in Louisiana was over $1 million in 2010 (Smith et al., 2015).  Adult beetles were reported to attack the trunks of young eucalyptus trees in Brazil, resulting in the death of some trees (Bernardi et al., 2008).  The larvae are suspected to feed on decomposing organic matter and roots.  Damage to the roots of rice plants was reported, but some have suggested that damage to live roots is incidental to feeding on decomposing organic matter (Buntin, 2012; Fritz et al., 2008; Hammond, 2000).  Adult feeding is considered more economically-significant than larval feeding (Catchot, 2013).

The taxonomic history of this beetle is complex (Billeisen and Brandenburg, 2014).  Ratcliffe and Cave (2006) recognized Euetheola humilis (Burmeister) as a valid species and Ligyrus rugiceps LeConte as a synonym.  The sugarcane beetle has been referred to by several names, including Eutheola rugiceps (LeConte), Eutheola humilus (Burmeister), and Euetheola humilis (Burmeister) (note the difference in the spelling of the genus).  Some workers have recognized two separate entities: the subspecies E. humilis Burmeister, in Arizona, Mexico, Central America, and South America, and E. humilis rugiceps LeConte, in the southeastern United States (Hardy, 1991; Smith, 2008).  In this proposal, biological information that was attributed in references to beetles referred to by the names Euetheola humilis and E. rugiceps, (including any subspecies recognized in such references) was considered.

Worldwide Distribution:  The origin of the sugarcane beetle is not known.  However, it was found in the United States as early as 1856, and it is possible that it is native to the entirety of its current distribution (Billeisen and Brandenburg, 2014).  The sugarcane beetle is present in the southeastern United States, southeastern Mexico, Central America (including Panama), and South America (including Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela) (Billeisen and Brandenburg, 2014).

Official Control: Euetheola humilis rugiceps is not known to be under official control anywhere.

California Distribution:  Euetheola humilis rugiceps is not known to be present in California (Symbiota Collections of Arthropods Network).

California Interceptions:  Euetheola humilis rugiceps was intercepted at border stations on squash and in a trailer from Arkansas and Georgia (CDFA Pest and Damage Report Database, 2018).

The risk Euetheola humilis rugiceps would pose to California is evaluated below.

Consequences of Introduction:

1) Climate/Host Interaction: The sugarcane beetle has a broad climatic tolerance. It occurs from the southeastern United States south to Argentina, where it is exposed to temperate, subtropical, and tropical climates.  This beetle feeds on a wide variety of plants, including grasses.  The species could become established over a large portion of California, although probably not in colder, mountainous or northern areas.  Therefore, it receives a High (3) in this category.

– Low (1) Not likely to establish in California; or likely to establish in very limited areas.

– Medium (2) may be able to establish in a larger but limited part of California.

– High (3) likely to establish a widespread distribution in California.

2) Known Pest Host Range: The sugarcane beetle is reported to feed on at least three families of plants. Therefore, it receives a Medium (2) in this category.

– Low (1) has a very limited host range.

– Medium (2) has a moderate host range.

– High (3) has a wide host range.

3) Pest Reproductive and Dispersal Potential: The sugarcane beetle flies.  Therefore, it receives a Medium (2) in this category.

– Low (1) does not have high reproductive or dispersal potential.

– Medium (2) has either high reproductive or dispersal potential.

– High (3) has both high reproduction and dispersal potential.

4) Economic Impact: The sugarcane beetle is a pest of many different crops, including corn and sweet potatoes, which are grown in California.  If this beetle became established in California, it could attack these crops, which could lower crop yield and increase production costs.  Therefore, it receives a Medium (2) in this category.

Economic Impact:  A, B

A. The pest could lower crop yield.

B. The pest could lower crop value (includes increasing crop production costs).

C. The pest could trigger the loss of markets (includes quarantines).

D. The pest could negatively change normal cultural practices.

E. The pest can vector, or is vectored, by another pestiferous organism.

F. The organism is injurious or poisonous to agriculturally important animals.

G. The organism can interfere with the delivery or supply of water for agricultural uses.

Economic Impact Score: 2

– Low (1) causes 0 or 1 of these impacts.

– Medium (2) causes 2 of these impacts.

– High (3) causes 3 or more of these impacts.

5) Environmental Impact: The sugarcane beetle damages a wide variety of plants through adult and larval feeding. The species could impact native California plants, and as a result, disrupt natural communities.  The feeding on eucalyptus trees by adult sugarcane beetles, reported by Bernardi et al. (2008), demonstrates that trees, and not only food crops and grasses, can be impacted by this beetle.  In addition, if this beetle became a pest in agricultural, ornamental, or residential settings, it could trigger treatments.  Therefore, it receives a High (3) in this category.

Evaluate the environmental impact of the pest on California using the criteria below.

Environmental Impact: A, D

A. The pest could have a significant environmental impact such as lowering biodiversity, disrupting natural communities, or changing ecosystem processes.

B. The pest could directly affect threatened or endangered species.

C. The pest could impact threatened or endangered species by disrupting critical habitats.

D. The pest could trigger additional official or private treatment programs.

E. The pest significantly impacts cultural practices, home/urban gardening or ornamental plantings.

Environmental Impact Score: 3

– Low (1) causes none of the above to occur.

– Medium (2) causes one of the above to occur.

– High (3) causes two or more of the above to occur.

Consequences of Introduction to California for sugarcane beetle: Medium (12)

Add up the total score and include it here.

–Low = 5-8 points

–Medium = 9-12 points

–High = 13-15 points

6) Post Entry Distribution and Survey Information: The sugarcane beetle is not known to be present in California.  It receives a Not established (0) in this category.

–Not established (0) Pest never detected in California, or known only from incursions.

–Low (-1) Pest has a localized distribution in California, or is established in one suitable climate/host area (region).

–Medium (-2) Pest is widespread in California but not fully established in the endangered area, or pest established in two contiguous suitable climate/host areas.

–High (-3) Pest has fully established in the endangered area, or pest is reported in more than two contiguous or non-contiguous suitable climate/host areas.

Final Score:

7) The final score is the consequences of introduction score minus the post entry distribution and survey information score: Medium (12)


The sugarcane beetle is widely distributed in the southeastern United States.  Yet, it has not yet become established in California.  This may indicate that the climate of California is not appropriate for this species.  There are native plants in California to which the sugarcane beetle has not been exposed yet in its current range.  The establishment of this beetle in California could have significant environmental impacts in the state not seen in its current range.

Conclusion and Rating Justification:

The sugarcane beetle is a reported pest of many crops, some of which are grown in California.  It is not known to be present in California, but it appears that the climate in this state would be conducive to the establishment of this beetle.  If it became established here, the sugarcane beetle could have economic and environmental impacts.  For these reasons, an “A” rating is justified.


Bernardi, O., Garcia, M. S., Da Cunha, U. S., Back, E. C. U., Bernardi, D., Ramiro, G. A., and Finkenauer, E.  2008.  Ocorrência de Euetheola humilis (Burmeister) (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae) em Eucalyptus saligna Smith (Myrtaceae), no Rio Grande do Sul.  Neotropical Entomology 37:100-103.

Billeisen, T. L. and Brandenburg, R. L.  2014.  Biology and management of the sugarcane beetle (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae) in turfgrass.  Journal of Integrated Pest Management 5:1-5.

Buntin, G. D.  2012.  Grain sorghum insect pests and their management.  University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Bulletin no. 1283.

Catchot, A.  2013.  Have a plan for managing sugarcane beetles in field corn.  Mississippi State University Extension.  Accessed January 12, 2018:

Fritz, L. L., Heinrichs, E. A., Pandolfo, M., Martins de Salles, S., Vargas de Oliveira, J., and Fiuza, L. M.  2008.  Agroecossistemas orizícolas irrigados: Insetos-praga, inmigos naturais e manejo integrado.  Oecologia Brasiliensis 12:720-732.

Guagliumi, P.  1960.  Actual situation of entomology of sugar cane in Venezuela. Proceedings of the International Society of Sugarcane Technologists (10th Congress, Hawaii, 1959):1000-1010.

Hammond, A. M.  2002. Sugarcane beetle, Euetheola rugiceps (LeConte), Scarabaeidae, Coleoptera.  Publication 2892.  Louisiana State University Agricultural Center.

Smith, A. B. T.  2008.  Checklist of the Scarabaeoidea of the Nearctic Realm. Version 3.

The University of Nebraska State Museum.  Accessed: March 29, 2018:

Smith, T. P., Beuzelin, J. M., Catchot, A. L., Murillo, A. C., and Kerns, D. L.  2015.  Biology, ecology, and management of the sugarcane beetle (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae) in sweetpotato and corn.  Journal of Integrated Pest Management 6:1-6.

Symbiota Collections of Arthropods Network.  Accessed March 29, 2018:


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Comment Period:* CLOSED

6/25/18 – 8/09/18


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Pest Rating: A

Posted by ls