Pacific Pests, Pathogens and Weeds - Online edition

Pacific Pests, Pathogens, Weeds & Pesticides

Rice pink stem borer (409)

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  • Restricted. South and Southeast Asia, North America (Hawaii), Oceania. In Guam, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands.
  • Minor pest of rice, attacks usually late and only if maize or sugarcane nearby. Also pest of millet, wheat, many grasses, some sedges.
  • Larvae tunnel through internodes of stem to the growing point, killing it; stems pull out easily (‘deadhearts’). Panicles fail to emerge, or emerge with unfilled grain (‘whiteheads’).
  • Eggs (up to 100) between leaf sheaths and stem, in rows. Mature larvae deep pink with orange-red heads, 25-30 mm long. Adults have brown hairs over the head and thorax, light-brown forewings, whitish hindwings, 28-35 mm wingspans. Strong flyer. Nocturnal.
  • Natural enemies: many egg and larval parasitoids and predators.
  • Biosecurity: introduction possible on produce contaminated with infested stems of host plants.
  • Cultural control: handpick in nursery; plough land well (burying larvae/pupae of previous crop); plant at higher density than normal; rotate, e.g., legumes; synchronise plantings with neighbours; submerge eggs by raising water occasionally; weed; apply split applications N; harvest at ground level to remove larvae; plough in stubble, unharvested plants and weeds; use resistant (short, high tillering, early maturing) varieties.
  • Chemical control: unlikely to be needed. Use abamectin. Avoid broad-spectrum insecticides to preserve natural enemies.
Common Name

Rice pink stem borer; also known as the Asiatic pink stem borer or the purple stem borer.

Scientific Name

Sesamia inferens. A moth of the Noctuidae.

AUTHOR Grahame Jackson
Information (and Photo 4) from Rice Knowledge Bank. IRRI. (; and CABI (2019) Sesamia inferens (purple stem borer). Crop Protection Compendium. (; and Walker, K (2005) Asiatic pink stem borer (Sesamia inferens): PaDIL - (; and from Pathak MD, Khan ZR (1994) Insect Pests of Rice. IRRI/ICIPE. ( Photos 1&2 Pest and Diseases Image Library, Photo 3 Anderson S, Tran-Nguyen L (2012) Gold-fringed Rice Borer (Chilo auricilius). (Source: N. Sallam DAFF Biosecurity.) PaDIL - (

Produced with support from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research under project HORT/2016/185: Responding to emerging pest and disease threats to horticulture in the Pacific islands, implemented by the University of Queensland and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

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