Cotton Bollworm | Helicoverpa armigera (Hübner)

California Pest Rating for
Helicoverpa armigera (Hübner)Cotton bollworm
Lepidoptera: Noctuidae
Pest Rating: A



Initiating Event:

Helicoverpa armigera was recently intercepted in a cut flower shipment in Los Angeles. A pest rating proposal is required to assign a permanent pest rating.

History & Status:

Background:  Helicoverpa armigera is a highly polyphagous pest of many economically significant crops in Africa, Asia, Australia, and Europe (King, 1994). Helicoverpa armigera pupae overwinter in the soil. Adults emerge in May – June and lay eggs, usually on or near flowers. The larvae primarily feed on reproductive parts of hosts (flowers and fruits), but they can also feed on foliage. There are from two to six generations/year, depending on the climate. This species has been reported to cause serious losses throughout its range, in particular to tomatoes, corn, and cotton (Lammers and Ma cLeod, 2007).

Worldwide Distribution:  Helicoverpa armigera is widely distributed. It has been reported from the following places: Asia: Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Cocos Islands, Republic of Georgia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Syria, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and Yemen.

Europe: Albania, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Ukraine.

Africa: Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mayotte, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, Reunion, Rwanda, Saint Helena, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Oceania: American Samoa, Australia, Belau, Christmas Island, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Norfolk Island, Northern Mariana Islands, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

South America: Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay (CABI, 2007; Fibiger and Skule, 2011; EPPO, 2012; Sugayama, 2013; Senave, 2013; Murúa et al., 2014).

Official Control: Helicoverpa armigera is listed as a harmful organism in Costa Rica, Bermuda, French Polynesia, Honduras, Paraguay, Turkey, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Monaco, San Marino, Uruguay, Colombia, European Union, Norway, and Serbia (USDA PCIT).

California Distribution: Helicoverpa armigera has never been found in the environment of California.

California Interceptions: There was only one specimen reported in the Pest and Damage Record Database by CDFA. This specimen was found (2017) in Los Angeles County on a cut flower shipment from India (California Department of Food and Agriculture).

The risk Helicoverpa armigera (cotton bollworm) would pose to California is evaluated below.

Consequences of Introduction:

1) Climate/Host Interaction: Helicoverpa armigera can feed on a wide variety of plants that grow in California. It is expected to be capable of establishing a widespread distribution and receives a High (3) in this category.

Evaluate if the pest would have suitable hosts and climate to establish in California:

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: Helicoverpa armigera is a polyphagous moth and a major insect pest of both field and horticultural crops in many parts of the world (Fitt, 1989). It has been reported on over 180 species of plants, including many crops, in at least 45 plant families (Venette et al., 2003). It receives a High (3) in this category.

Evaluate the host range of the pest.

Low (1) has a very limited host range.

Medium (2) has a moderate host range.

– High (3) has a wide host range.

3) Pest Dispersal Potential: Helicoverpa armigera exhibits overlapping generations, typically two to five generations per year in subtropical and temperate regions. Up to 11 generations per year can occur under optimal conditions (Tripathi and Singh, 1991; King, 1994; Fowler and Lakin, 2001).  The female lays up to 1000 eggs in clusters or singly on fruits, stems, and growing points. It receives a High (3) in this category.

Evaluate the natural and artificial dispersal potential of the pest.

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: Helicoverpa armigera is considered to be among the most damaging agricultural pests in Australia, costing approximately $225.2 million per year to control (Clearly et al., 2006). This moth has the potential to lower crop yields and increase production costs in California. If Helicoverpa armigera were to establish in California it is also likely to disrupt markets for California fresh fruit and plants because this pest is regulated by many countries.  It receives a High (3) in this category.

Evaluate the economic impact of the pest to California using the criteria below.

Economic Impact: A, B, C

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: 3

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: Helicoverpa armigera is not expected to lower biodiversity, disrupt natural communities, or change ecosystem processes. It might trigger new chemical treatments by residents who find infestations in gardens. It is not expected to significantly impact cultural practices, home/urban gardening, or ornamental plantings. It receives a Medium (2) in this category.

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

Environmental Impact: 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: 2

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 Helicoverpa armigera (Cotton Bollworm):  High (14)

Low = 5-8 points

Medium = 9-12 points

-High = 13-15 points

6) Post Entry Distribution and Survey Information: Helicoverpa armigera has never been found in California and receives a Not established (0) in this category.

Evaluate the known distribution in California. Only official records identified by a taxonomic expert and supported by voucher specimens deposited in natural history collections should be considered. Pest incursions that have been eradicated, are under eradication, or have been delimited with no further detections should not be included.

-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:

The final score is the consequences of introduction score minus the post entry distribution and survey information score: High (14)


Only one interception record was found in CDFA database, there would be chances that it presumably enters the state undetected at other times. Therefore, it is possible that it may be present in some areas of California. There is little uncertainty that H. armigera could become widely established in California, as there are numerous host plants grown throughout the state.

Conclusion and Rating Justification:

Helicoverpa armigera has not been found in California and is expected to have significant economic and environmental impacts if it establishes in the state.  An “A” rating is justified.


CABI. 2018.  Helicoverpa armigera.  CAB International.  Accessed August 9, 2018:

CDFA Pest and Damage Report Database. 2011. Aulacaspis tubercularis. Plant Health and Pest Prevention Services. CA Department of Food and Agriculture. Accessed August 9, 2018:

Cleary, A. J., Cribb, B. W., and Murray, D. A. H. 2006. Helicoverpa armigera (Hübner): can wheat stubble protect cotton from attack. Australian Journal of Entomology 45:10-15.

Fitt, G. P. 1989. The ecology of Heliothis spp. in relation to agroecosystems. Annual Review of Entomology 34:17-52.

Fowler, G. A. and Lakin, K. R. 2001. Risk Assessment: The Old-World bollworm, Helicoverpa armigera (Hübner), (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae).


Smith E. 2015.  Old World bollworm management program.  Environmental Assessment USDA. Accessed August 9, 2018:

King, A. B. S. 1994. Heliothis /Helicoverpa (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) pp. 39-106 in Matthews, G. A. and Tunstall, J. P. (eds.), Insect Pests of Cotton. CAB International, Wallingford, UK.

Lammers, J. W. and MacLeod, A. 2007. Report of a Pest Risk Analysis: Helicoverpa armigera (Hübner, 1808). Plant Protection Service and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Central Science Laboratory.

Sullivan, M. and Molet, T. 2007. CPHST Pest Datasheet for Helicoverpa armigera. USDA-APHIS-PPQ-CPHST. Revised April 2014.  Accessed August 9, 2018:

Tripathi, S. and Singh, R. 1991. Population dynamics of Helicoverpa armigera (Hübner) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae). Insect Science Applications 12:367-374.

USDA Phytosanitary Certificate Issuance & Tracking System (PCIT). Phytosanitary

Export Database (PExD). Harmful organism report: Helicoverpa armigera.
Accessed August 9, 2018:


Javaid Iqbal, 1220 N Street, Sacramento, CA, 95814, (916) 654-1211,[@]

Responsible Party:

Kyle Beucke, 1220 ‘N’ Street, Room 221, Sacramento CA 95814, (916) 654-1211,[@]

Comment Period:*CLOSED

11/29/2018 – 1/13/2019


You must be registered and logged in to post a comment.  If you have registered and have not received the registration confirmation, please contact us at[@]

Comment Format:

♦  Comments should refer to the appropriate California Pest Rating Proposal Form subsection(s) being commented on, as shown below.

Example Comment:
Consequences of Introduction:  1. Climate/Host Interaction: [Your comment that relates to “Climate/Host Interaction” here.]

♦  Posted comments will not be able to be viewed immediately.

♦  Comments may not be posted if they:

Contain inappropriate language which is not germane to the pest rating proposal;

Contains defamatory, false, inaccurate, abusive, obscene, pornographic, sexually oriented, threatening, racially offensive, discriminatory or illegal material;

Violates agency regulations prohibiting sexual harassment or other forms of discrimination;

Violates agency regulations prohibiting workplace violence, including threats.

♦  Comments may be edited prior to posting to ensure they are entirely germane.

♦  Posted comments shall be those which have been approved in content and posted to the website to be viewed, not just submitted.

Pest Rating:  A

Posted by ls