The Tobacco Budworm


This is a familiar garden pest we encounter every season. It is a caterpillar that loves many of our favorite plants.  It is also an agricultural pest of both tobacco and cotton.



In our gardens it feeds on the flowers of geranium, petunia, snapdragon and nicotiana – sometimes even roses.  Preferring floral buds, they drill into these hollowing them out completely.  Their frass (insect poop)  is usually the same color as the petals which they also love to eat !



Budworms survive the winter as a pupa in the soil.  Emerging as an adult moth in late spring, females lay one egg each on a floral bud.  The caterpillars hatch and eat non stop for about a month until they are 10 times their original size, then pupate in the soil for a few weeks.  This cycle repeats itself producing several generations a season.  The Fall generation remains dormant until spring.



It is a very difficult caterpillar to control as it has become resistant to many insecticides.  It also does not respond well to the biological Bt spray as they are protected inside buds until they are large enough to be unaffected by it.  Unfortunately, using stronger pesticides may  damage flower buds.



Favorite food – geraniums ! – budworms drill holes in buds and eat from the inside and as they get older will grow and munch on the entire flower

The adult egg laying moth


Call Plant Specialists TODAY !

our Plant Health Care team will make sure your floral buds are safe !

Don’t delay – the sooner the better !







Article written by our Staff Horticulturist, Peter B Morris, BSc, MSc, MBA

All photographs used with permission @SHUTTERSTOCK