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Violet Stem Borer


Sesamia inferens

In a Nutshell

  • Holes in stem or base of inflorescences.
  • Wilting of tissues.
  • 'Dead heart' symptom in stems.
  • Small, light brown moths with hairy head and body.
  • Caterpillars are pinkish colored with red-brown heads.
 - Other

Other Other


The damage to crops is principally through the feeding activity of the caterpillars. They bore into the stems or the base of the panicle and feed on the internal substance, blocking the transport of nutrients and water. Exit holes of the caterpillar can also be observed on stems and panicles. The lack of supplies causes wilt of the affected plant parts. When opened longitudinally, the stems show ‘dead hearts’ symptoms, with the presence of larvae and frass inside.

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Symptoms are caused by the purple stem borer, Sesamia inferens. Larvae overwinter as pupae inside stems or plant debris in the soils and emerge as adults during the spring, when weather conditions are benign. The moths are small, stout and light brown with a hairy head and body. Forewings are straw colored with a marked golden margin. Hindwings are translucent white with yellowish veins. Females lay clusters of rounded, pale and yellowish green eggs in several rows behind the leaf sheaths to protect them from predators. Caterpillars are about 20 to 25 mm long, pinkish in color, with red-brown heads and no stripes. They bore into the stem and feed on the internal tissues.

Organic Control

Several parasitoid wasps of the groups Telenomeus and Trichogramma are depositing their eggs into the eggs of Sesamia inferens and help to control the population. For example, the release of egg parasitoid, Trichogramma chilonis (8 cards per hectare) at 12 and 22 days after germination. The larvae are also parasitized by the wasps Apanteles flavipes, Bracon chinensis and Sturmiopsis inferens. Finally, the pupae are attacked by species of Xanthopinpla and Tetrastichus. Bio-insecticides based on extracts of the fungus Beauveria bassiana and the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis are also effective against purple stem borer.

Chemical Control

Always consider an integrated approach with preventive measures together with biological control treatments if available. A prophylactic treatment with insecticides in the form of granules or sprays (with chlorantriniliprole, for example) can be applied to the foliage to control the pest population.

Preventive Measures

  • Plant more resilient varieties if available.
  • Plant synchronously with other farmers to avoid insect population build-ups.
  • Plant varieties with the same maturity features.
  • Early planting can also help to avoid peak populations.
  • Plant densely to hinder the moth to get into the foliage.
  • Intercrop with legumes.
  • Sow 2-3 rows of trap crop like sorghum on all sides to attract the insect.
  • Monitor the fields regularly and remove infected plant parts.
  • Ensure an adequate level of nitrogen and a timely application.
  • Pull out weeds in and around the field.
  • Ensure good water management.
  • Remove and destroy crop debris after harvest.
  • Plan a long-term crop rotation with non-host plants.

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