Inferring the annual migration patterns of fall armyworm (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) in the United States from mitochondrial haplotypes


  • This material is based upon [work] supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under Agreement No. 2011-67003-30209.

Rodney Nagoshi, Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology, USDA-ARS, 1700 SW 23rd Drive, Gainesville, FL 32608. Tel: +352 538-4933; Fax: +352 374-5804; E-mail:


Spodoptera frugiperda (J. E. Smith) or fall armyworm is an important agricultural pest of a number of crops in the western hemisphere. In the United States, infestations in corn acreages extend from the Mexican to the Canadian border. Because fall armyworm does not survive prolonged freezing, the infestations annually affecting most of North America are migrants from southern Texas and Florida, where winter temperatures are mild and host plants are available. A haplotype method was developed that can distinguish between these two geographically distant overwintering populations, with the potential to delineate the associated migratory pathways. Several years of collections from major corn-producing areas in the southern, central, and eastern United States were used to map the geographical distribution of the fall armyworm haplotypes. From these haplotype profiles, it was possible to develop the most detailed description yet of the annual northward movements of fall armyworm. The consistency of these results with past studies and the implications on our understanding of fall armyworm biology are discussed. A better understanding of fall armyworm populations and their movement is critical for the development of strategies to predict infestation levels and eventually control this pest in the United States.