“This is a severe economic pest in most places where it is established,” says Greg Sword, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension entomologist, who discussed the possibility of it becoming a significant pest in cotton,  soybeans, wheat, small grains, and other  U.S. crops during the cotton segment of the Texas Plant Protection Association’s 27th annual conference in Bryan, Texas.

“The Old World bollworm is one of the world’s most destructive agricultural pests,” he says. “It is the target of more than 75 percent of all insecticides applied in India and China.”

Managing the pest could be complicated, Sword says, since the Old World bollworm has “known markers for pyrethroids resistance.” It also hybridizes easily with the bollworm U.S. farmers are already familiar with, and the two are difficult to differentiate. “We can’t tell the females of the two species apart,” he says, “and we have to dissect males to differentiate them. We could be looking at a genome invasion instead of an invasive species.”