In late June and early July 2015, APHIS confirmed the detection of three adult male Old World bollworms (OWB) in the Bradenton area of Manatee County, Florida (link). These were the first detections of OWB in the continental United States.
Following these initial detections, APHIS and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) extensively surveyed throughout the state to determine the extent of this incursion. In addition, APHIS and FDACS conducted trace backs, trace forwards, and other outreach activities to determine any potential pathways.
There were no additional detections of OWB in Florida after one complete year of continuous and intensive survey efforts. Therefore, APHIS and FDACS have determined that this OWB incursion was an isolated regulatory incident. Although APHIS and FDACS consider this a transient event, OWB remains a pest of concern for Florida and the United States and will continue to be a target in state and national survey efforts.
OWB is found in many countries in Africa, Europe, Asia, and the islands of the Western Pacific Region and has recently become established in in some areas of South America. It is considered a severe economic pest in most places where it occurs. OWB feeds on many types of plants and can affect 180 species of wild and cultivated plants in more than 45 families. Major hosts include: Artichokes, beans, forage legumes, bell peppers, cacao, chrysanthemums, cotton, maize, wheat, other small grains, okra, peas, potatoes, rice, sorghum, sugarcane, sunflowers, tobacco, and tomatoes.
OWB is closely related to the corn earworm, Helicoverpa zea, which is widespread in the United States. The adult moths of these two pests can be distinguished using morphological characters; however, the larvae of corn earworm and OWB cannot be distinguished without DNA analysis.
For additional information on OWB visit: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/plant-health/owb
Under IPPC Standards, Helicoverpa armigera is considered to be a pest that is Absent: pest no longer present in the continental United States.