For a lot of people, the mere mention of the word ‘worm’ will conjure an image of a small, squirming creature that gives them the creeps. This image is made even worse when you consider the fact that the Tobacco Budworm is a species that is not actually a worm, it is in fact a moth, with wings! Now, a lot of you will want to know more ways of avoiding the creature, but the fact is that these are rather fascinating insects that will wow you if you learn a little more about them!
The tobacco budworm is a species which is native to the eastern and southwestern United States, but has been found in other regions of the country as well. In some cases, these insects have even been found as far north as Canada and as far south as Guatemala! Why is this an incredible feat, you ask? Because as adults, the wingspan of these moths comes in at only 28 millimeters, which means that the adult itself is much smaller than this size – for an insect this tiny, it is a task of mammoth endurance to make it from its point of origin to such faraway places.
This little moth has a high affinity for feeding on the buds of tobacco leaves in the larval stage, which rightfully earns it its name as well. The adult moth will lay her eggs on the leaves of plants that belong to the tobacco species, and when the eggs hatch they immediately make their way through the leaves and towards the bud of the plant, feeding on it and causing damage. The best way to identify an area with tobacco budworm presence is to observe if the budding leaves have their normal features or if they are ragged and distorted. This is all the more necessary when you consider that the larva of these insects have coats in the shades of green, thereby allowing them to easily camouflage in the tobacco fields!
An interesting thing to note about the tobacco budworm is that each stage of its development – larva through adult – is very dependent on the temperature of its surrounding environment. A 5 degree rise in temperature, in fact, is known to shrink the time taken for the larva to mature by almost a week! That said, there is also a disadvantage in this method for the insect – in the event that the temperature changes too rapidly in a given area, it could cause great harm to their growth. Adult moths are normally light brown in color with some tinges of green, but the females of the species tend to possess darker coverings, making them more detectable. They also have a very short lifespan when fully mature, normally mating and laying the eggs for the new generation within 25 days of emerging as adults!
Owing to their taste for the tobacco plant, they are cigarette manufacturers’ worst nightmare. However, for all those of you who have been advocating your friends and family against the use of tobacco in their lives, the tobacco budworm may actually be Nature’s way of helping you out! Bet you never thought of it that way.