Common pests by crop

The information below is relevant to field crops grown in Australia's northern grain region.


Most insect and mite pests are considered minor, and control measures are not normally required. Pests may include aphids (turnip, cabbage, and green peach), Rutherglen bug and helicoverpa.


Helicoverpa larvae are the only major pest. They are most damaging from pod set to maturity, reducing both grain yield and quality.

Hairs on the leaves, stems and pods secrete an organic acid (malic acid), making the crop unattractive to most insects. Seedling insect pests, such as cutworm, can attack chickpeas, but are seldom an economic problem. Other minor pests include locusts, aphids, false wireworm, thrips, loopers, green vegetable bug and blue oat mite.


The introduction of Bt cotton has resulted in a significant reduction of insecticide use against helicoverpa. However, sucking insects may require careful management.

Major pests include helicoverpa, spider mites, mirids, aphids and whiteflies.

Minor pests include thrips, green vegetable bug, pale cotton stainer bug, cotton harlequin bug, soil insects (true and false wireworm), redshouldered leaf beetle, leafhoppers/jassids, and mealybug.


Potential pests of lucerne stands include helicoverpa (generally only an economic problem in seed-producing stands), aphids (spotted alfalfa, blue-green and pea), lucerne leafroller, whitefringed weevil, leafhoppers/jassids and cutworm.


The main pests of maize are fall armyworm, helicoverpa and soil insects. Other pests are infrequent, although maize leafhoppers can transmit wallaby ear disease.

Millets and panicums

While serious insect pests are not generally considered a problem, helicoverpa, cutworm, armyworm, locusts and shoot fly can occasionally reach damaging levels.


Insect pests can attack mungbeans at any stage from seedling to harvest but the crop is most susceptible from budding onwards. Monitor crops once a week during vegetative growth as the first buds are borne below the top of the canopy.

Major pests include helicoverpa, pod-sucking bugs, mirids and bean pod-borer.

Minor pests include caterpillars (loopers, cluster caterpillar, Etiella), bean fly, cowpea aphid, thrips and cowpea bruchid (post-harvest).


Pest damage to peanuts can occur from planting to maturity. Under intensive production a number of pests will warrant control.

Major pests include helicoverpa, mites, Etiella and peanut scarab.

Minor pests include whitefringed weevil, false wireworm, leafhoppers/jassids, cluster caterpillar, mirids, silverleaf whitefly, thrips, armyworm and cutworm.


Sorghum is susceptible to insect pests from emergence to late grain fill. IPM programs incorporate latest varietal releases and soft biopesticides.

Major pests include Helicoverpa armigera, fall armyworm and sorghum midge.

Minor pests include false wireworm, cutworm, black field earwig, armyworm, corn aphid, Rutherglen bug, sorghum head caterpillar and yellow peach moth.


Soybeans can be attacked by pests at any stage from seedlings to close to harvest, but are most attractive from flowering onwards.

Major pests include helicoverpa, pod-sucking bugs and silverleaf whitefly.

Minor pests include brown shield bug, caterpillars (cluster caterpillar, loopers, soybean moth, legume webspinner, Etiella), redshouldered leaf beetle, lucerne crownborer, soybean aphids and mirids.


Sunflowers are attacked by a number of insect pests at various stages of crop development. Sunflowers are more susceptible to seedling damage from soil insects than other field crops because damaged seedlings lack the capacity to regrow or tiller.

Other pests include Rutherglen bug, helicoverpa, whiteflies, loopers and green vegetable bug.

Winter cereals (includes wheat, barley, oats, canary and triticale)

Insects are not normally a major problem in winter cereals but there will be times when they build up to an extent that control may be warranted.

Pests of winter cereals include cutworm, aphids, armyworm, helicoverpa and mites.