Date of this Version
American Entomologist 52:2 (Summer 2006), pp. 90-97.
Diabrotica spp. (western, northern, and Mexican corn rootworms) represent the main pest complex of continuous field corn, Zea mays (L.), in North America. The western corn rootworm, Diabrotica virgifera virgifera LeConte, also has become the main pest of continuous corn in Central and Southeastern Europe since its introduction near Belgrade 15–20 years ago, and it represents a major risk to Western Europe. It has already caused economic losses in Eastern Europe, and Western countries such as France have committed large expenditures for containment and/or eradication.
Rootworm larvae feed on corn roots, and damaged plants are more susceptible to drought and disease, have decreased yield, and are prone to lodging. A recent economic analysis estimates that costs of control and yield loss are about $1.17 billion a year in the United States. Crop rotation and chemical control have been the primary management strategies, but the western corn rootworm is becoming increasingly difficult to control because of its sequential ability to evolve resistance to almost all management strategies that have been used. The recent deployment of transgenic Bt corn in the United States for controlling Diabrotica pests has raised concerns that rootworms will develop resistance to this technology as well, unless appropriate resistance management strategies are developed and practiced.