Most corn earworms cannot survive the cold of a Northeastern winter, but each summer this sweet corn pest arrives back in the cornfields of the northeastern United States more quickly than most people believe is possible. Now, a team of Penn State meteorologists thinks it knows how the small moths travel long distances so quickly, and perhaps can predict where and when they will appear next.
"For years, researchers have assumed that the moths travel in parcels of air," says Matthew Welshans, undergraduate in meteorology and undergraduate research assistant at Penn States Environment Institute. "Few had actually tested this assumption, and no one tried to predict where or when the moths would land and earworms would appear in the Northeastern states."
Working with Dr. Shelby Fleischer, professor of entomology; Paul Knight, Penn State meteorologist; and Dr. Douglas A. Miller, assistant professor of geography, Welshans investigated the potential paths of corn earworm moths and other pests such as armyworm if they rode the wind as they spread northward during the spring and summer.
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