Kansas State University


Extension Entomology

Tag: cocoons

European Pine Sawfly

–Dr. Raymond Cloyd

Yesterday (April 17, 2017) European pine sawfly, Neodiprion sertifer larvae were detected feeding on my “indicator pine” in Manhattan, KS (I was totally excited!). Young caterpillar-looking larvae are 1/4 inch in length and olive-green in color with a black head (Figures 1). Mature larvae are >1.0 inch long with green stripes. The larvae are gregarious or feed in groups on needles of a variety of pines, especially Scotch, red, and mugo pine. When disturbed, each individual larva will arch their head and abdomen (last segment of an insect body) back, forming a “C-shape” (Figure 2), which is a defensive posture to ward-off predators.

Figure 1. Young European Pine Sawfly Larvae

Eventually, larvae will strip the needles of mature foliage, leaving only the central core, which is white and then turns brown (Figure 3). In general, larvae complete feeding by the time needles emerge from the candelabra. Therefore, those really is only a minor threat of branch or tree death resulting from sawfly larval feeding. However, the loss of second- and third-year needles will be noticeable in landscape trees; thus ruining their aesthetic appearance. In late spring, larvae drop to the ground and pupate in brown, leathery cocoons located at the base of trees. Adults, which are wasp-like, emerge in fall and lay eggs in needles prior to the onset of winter. There is one generation per year in Kansas.

Figure 2. European Sawfly Larvae In A Defensive Posture (Arching Head And Abdomen Back)

Sawfly larvae look-like caterpillars; but, they are not caterpillars (Order: Lepidoptera). Sawflies are related to ants, bees, and wasps (Order: Hymenoptera). The primary way to distinguish a sawfly larva from a caterpillar is by the following: 1) sawfly larva have prolegs (fleshy abdominal legs) on every abdominal segment whereas caterpillars are missing prolegs on the abdomen and 2) caterpillar larva have hairs or crochets on their feet whereas sawfly larva do not have hairs or crochets on their feet.

Figure 3. Feeding Damage To Pine Caused By European Pine Sawfly Larvae

Sawfly larvae are not caterpillars, therefore, the bacterial insecticide, Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. kurstaki (sold as Dipel) will not directly kill sawfly larvae. Dealing with sawfly larvae involves hand-picking (you can wear gloves if you wish) or dislodging larvae from plants by means of a forceful water spray. If necessary, there are a number of insecticides that may be applied to suppress European pine sawfly populations including: acephate (Orthene), azadirachtin, carbaryl (Sevin), spinosad (Captain Jack’s DeadBug Brew and Conserve), and any pyrethroid insecticide (e.g., bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, and lambda-cyhalothrin). Be sure to read the insecticide label to make sure that sawflies are listed. For more information regarding European pine sawfly management contact your county or state extension specialist.


Squash Vine Borer

By Dr. Raymond Cloyd

We have received inquiries regarding cucumber and squash plants wilting and collapsing, and a recent visit to the Manhattan Community Garden (Manhattan, KS) provided evidence that the larvae of the squash vine borer (Melittia cucurbitae) are indeed active inside plants. Squash vine borers feed on squash, pumpkin, cucumber, and muskmelon.

Adults are “clear wing” moths 5/8 inches long. The front wings are covered with scales whereas the hind wings are transparent because they do not have scales. Hind wings have red-brown hairs along the edges. The body is orange-red, with gray bands and three black markings along with orange-red hairs on the abdomen (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Squash vine borer adult
Figure 1: Squash vine borer adult

Moths are active during the day with females depositing eggs on the stem near the soil level or on stems or petioles when plants begin to flower. The eggs are red-brown, flattened, 1/30 inches in diameter, and are typically located at the base of plants (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Squash vine borer eggs located at base of plant
Figure 2: Squash vine borer eggs located at base of plant

A single female is capable of producing up to 200 eggs. Larvae that hatch from eggs are white, with a dark head capsule. Young larvae are 1/4 to 3/4 inches in length and taper toward the end of the abdomen (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Young larva of squash vine borer
Figure 3: Young larva of squash vine borer

Mature or fully-grown larvae are 1.0 to 1.5 inches long (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Mature larva of squash vine borer larval feeding
Figure 4: Mature larva of squash vine borer larval feeding

Larvae that hatch from eggs immediately tunnel into the base of plants. The larvae feed for 30 days in the plant stem, and increase in size as they mature. Typically there is only one larva per stem; however, multiple larvae may be present in a single tunnel in the stem. Mature larvae leave plants and burrow into the soil to pupate by constructing brown, silkened cocoons in which they overwinter. Squash vine borer overwinters as a mature larva in the cocoon that is located 1.0 to 2.0 inches in the soil. In early spring, the adult (moth) emerges from the soil. Squash vine borer has one generation in Kansas.

At this point, squash vine borer larvae are feeding within the internal vascular tissues inhibiting the plant’s ability to take-up water and nutrients; consequently, resulting in sudden wilting of vines and plant collapse (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Plants wilting due to squash vine borer larval feeding
Figure 5: Plants wilting due to squash vine borer larval feeding

Once the larvae are inside the plant, there is little that can be done to control them or prevent damage. The tunnels inside infested plants are packed with moistened frass (fecal matter) (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Moistened frass or fecal matter inside infested plant stem
Figure 6: Moistened frass or fecal matter inside infested plant stem

Yellow-green sawdust-like frass can also be found around feeding sites at the base of vines or plants (Figure 7)

Figure 7: Frass or fecal matter near tunnel entrance of squash vine borer larvae
Figure 7: Frass or fecal matter near tunnel entrance of squash vine borer larvae

,which will be a direct indication that larvae have entered the plant.

Since the larvae are feeding inside the plant there is not much that can be done to kill the larvae; however, there are number of plant protection strategies that can be implemented during the remainder of the growing season, including: sanitation and physical control.

Sanitation: remove and dispose of all wilted plants before the larvae leave and enter the soil. Discard all plant debris such as vines and fruits after harvest.

Physical control: rototilling in fall or spring will directly kill squash vine borer pupae or bring the pupae to the soil surface where they are exposed to cold weather or predation by birds. In addition, the process of deep plowing will bury the pupae deeper in the soil profile thus inhibiting adult emergence. Another technique that may have limited use in large plantings but may be feasible for smaller plantings is to locate infested stems and vines, create slits at the base of the plant, and then use tweezers to remove and destroy the larvae inside. The plant base should then be covered with moist soil, which stimulates the production of secondary vines and/or root growth; thus helping the plant to re-establish.

There is a new up-dated extension publication on squash vine borer (MF3309) that contains current information on plant protection with images of the insect (both adult and larva) and plant damage. You can download a PDF from the following website:


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