Pacific Pests, Pathogens and Weeds - Online edition

Pacific Pests, Pathogens, Weeds & Pesticides

Rice yellow stem borer (533)

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  • Moderately widespread – not in Americas or Caribbean. In Australia, PNG.
  • Rice, cultivated and wild. Major pest of lowland and deep-water rice.
  • Eggs (groups of 80) on upper half of seedling leaves, covered in scales; larvae white at first, bore into stems causing deadhearts (vegetative stage) or whiteheads (panicle stage), pale yellow to yellowish-green, brownish head; up to 20mm. Pupate in silken cocoons in base of stems or below ground in stubble, remaining dormant during adverse conditions (e.g., droughts). Female pale-yellow or light-brown forewings with single black spot; wingspan 32mm. Males, two rows of spots at tips of forewings.
  • Spread: eggs on seedling; larvae blown in the wind on silken threads; as pupae in harvested stems, and on machinery; as adults on the wing.
  • Biosecurity: risks associated with produce contaminated with rice stems (straw) containing larvae and/or pupae.
  • Biocontrol: parasitoids – Telenomus, Tetrastichus, Trichogramma species; predators – long-horned grasshoppers, spiders.
  • Cultural control: prepare land well (destroy pupae from previous crop); use short, early-maturing varieties; before transplanting, hand-pick eggs, or cut upper parts of leaves; avoid over-lapping crops; raise irrigation level periodically; weed; remove deadhearts and kill larvae; apply split N applications; harvest at ground-level; plough in stubble; if possible, irrigate field.
  • Chemical control: economic threshold: i) count egg masses on 20 hills diagonally across field; ii) collect eggs iii) incubate; v) spray, if more parasitoids emerge than larvae. Avoid broad-spectrum insecticides; use bt; abamectin, or spinosad.
Common Name

Yellow stem borer. It is also known as the paddy stem borer, yellow rice borer.

Scientific Name

Scirpophaga incertulas; previously known as Chilo incertulas. There are other Scirpophaga species on rice (see Fact Sheets nos. 408, 411, 412), and there has been confusion in the past in the identification of Scirpophaga incertulas, with males and females thought to be different species. A member of the Crambidae (snout moths).

AUTHOR Grahame Jackson
Information from Stem borer Rice Doctor IRRI (; CABI (2021) Scirpophaga incertulas (yellow stem borer). Crop Protection Compendium. (; and Scirpophaga incertulas (2021) Wikipedia. (; and Rice stem borers in the Philippines (1999)Department of Agriculture. Philippines Rice Research Institute. Rice Technical Bulletin No. 20. Maligaya. Philippines. (; and from Cohen MB, et al. (2000) Dispersal by larvae of the stem borers Scirpophaga incertulas (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) and Chilo suppressalis (Lepidoptera: Crambidae) in plots of transplanted rice. Environmental Entomology 29(5): 958–971. Photo 4 Yellow stemborer: Scirpophaga incertulas. Part of the image collection of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).([email protected]/). Photo 5 Shino Jacob Koottanad Scirpophaga incertalas, rice yellow stem borer. ( Photo 6 Scirpophaga incertulas Walker, 1863. Observed in India by Subhadra Devi.  (

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, in association with the Pacific Community.

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