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What to Do About Pests that Can Harm Your Corn Plants

Worm eating corn

A worm eating the corn

Pests in your corn garden, left unchecked, can damage and destroy your precious plants. Keeping a close watch on your plants during your regular daily inspections will help you spot any pests before they can do irreparable harm.

Spot the symptoms of corn plant pests

Check leaves, stalks, and ears for these symptoms that come from pests on the prowl.

On Corn Leaves, Stems, and Stalks

Symptom Pest
Torn or chewed stem Cutworm (usually occurs early in the season on seedlings)
Defoliation European corn borers
Holes in plant leaves Flea beetles
Collapsing stalks Corn rootworms

On Corn Ears

Symptom Pest
Moth eggs on silks Corn earworm
Yellow-headed maggots, missing kernels Seed corn maggots

How to treat pests on corn plants

Here are some proven ways to get rid of pests on your corn plants. Choose the best treatment for the type of pests invading your plants.

  • Pick off the pests. Remove the pests by hand, and use your garden gloves when you do. After removal, destroy pests by drowning them in a bucket of soapy water or crushing them with your foot. Handpicking isn’t efficient or practical for very small pests, but it works well with larger pests.
  • Apply insecticidal soap. Insecticidal soap is organic, and the potassium salts in insecticidal soap help remove an insect’s protective waxes, causing destruction of insect membranes and killing them. Insecticidal soaps are particularly effective on smaller pests such as aphids, psyllids, and spider mites. Mix the soap with water to create your solution, and apply directly to insects on any plants. While insecticidal soap is less apt to affect other organisms, certain plants might be sensitive to the soap and could suffer leaf burn.
  • Apply an oil mixture. An effective way to ward off earworms—the bane of corn growers—is to use an eye-dropper to apply a mixture of vegetable oil, Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), water, and a few drops of dishwashing liquid to the tip of each ear several days after the silks emerge.
  • Make your own pest spray. You can make your own pest spray with benign materials. Mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon of a mild dish detergent, and 2 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil in a gallon of water to make a solution that will repel all kinds of bugs. Shake it well in your bottle before spraying and repeat every week for it to be continuously effective.

Do your corn plants get attacked by pests? How have you handled preventing pests from infesting your corn? Please share your tips for growing healthy corn plants.


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