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Pest Information

Tobacco Budworm

Tobacco Budworm

  • Latin Name: Heliothis virescens
  • Common Name: Tobacco Budworm
  • Other Names: Geranium budworm

Pest Details

Tobacco Budworm
Tobacco Budworm
Tobacco Budworm
Tobacco Budworm


This is a native insect in the southern U.S. and is found also throughout Central America, the Caribbean, and into South America.


The caterpillars are serious pests of a number of landscape flowers, including rose, but may favor the flowers of geraniums and petunias where they feed on the developing flower buds as well as the petals of the fully opened flower. They badly destroy or completely remove the flowers, leading to a loss of the aesthetic value of these plants. In agriculture they attack tobacco, as their name suggests, as well as alfalfa, cotton, and occasional other crops. This is primarily a warm climate pest that migrates to northern states with the summer months but overwinters and breeds most often in the southern states.


The mature larvae are about an inch long with a sparse arrangement of stiff hairs over the body. The front of the head is orange and the lower sides of the body are a cream color. The top of the body has a gray stripe running its length, below this is an orange to yellow stripe, and another dark stripe runs along each side. The adult moth has a wing span of about 1 inch and color varies from light brown to light green. Three narrow darker bands run across the forewings at an angle and the hind wings are white. The forewings have an elongate triangular shape.

Characteristicts Important to Control:

The larvae also feed on a wide variety of weeds, and removing weeds from landscaped areas reduces food opportunities for them. Early treatment with insecticides when the first feeding damage is noticed will reduce the population and prevent production of breeding adult moths. A great many parasitic and predaceous insects feed on the caterpillars and should be encouraged where possible.

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