Continental-scale migration patterns and origin of Helicoverpa zea (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) based on a biogeochemical marker

Silvana V. Paula-Moraes, Eduardo S. Calixto, Abraão A. Santos, Francis P.F. Reay-Jones, Dominic D. Reisig, Yasmine Farhan, Jocelyn L. Smith, William D. Hutchison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Insect migrations have ecological and economic impacts, particularly in agriculture. However, there is limited knowledge about the migratory movements of pests at the continental scale, which is an important factor influencing the spread of resistance genes. Understanding the migratory patterns of economic pests, like Helicoverpa zea (Boddie), is essential for improving Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and Insect Resistance Management (IRM) strategies. In this study, we used stable hydrogen isotopic ratios in wing tissue as a biogeochemical marker to examine migratory patterns and estimate the native origins of H. zea individuals collected across a wide latitudinal gradient in North America. Samples collected at higher latitudes (Ontario, Canada and Minnesota, USA) exhibited a greater proportion (60%-96%) of nonlocal individuals, with an increased probability of origin from the southeastern United States. Populations from mid-latitudes (Florida, North Carolina, and South Carolina) showed a blend of local and nonlocal (40%-60%) individuals. Finally, 15% of the southernmost population individuals (Puerto Rico) were classified as migratory, with some having a probability of origin at higher latitudes (>30°). Overall, our results provide evidence of a northward spring/summer migration of H. zea in North America and underscore the significance of the southeastern United States as a hub for genetic flow. In addition, based on stable hydrogen isotopic ratios, there is strong evidence of reverse (southward) migration of H. zea from the continental United States to Puerto Rico. Our study highlights the implications for IPM and IRM programs and the need for management strategies that account for both northward and southward migration patterns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)487-497
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental entomology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Entomological Society of America.


  • Manejo Integrado de Pragas (MIP)
  • Manejo da Resistência de Insetos (MRI)
  • corn earworm
  • hydrogen isotope
  • isótopos de hidrogênio
  • lagarta da espiga
  • mariposas-praga
  • migration
  • migração


Dive into the research topics of 'Continental-scale migration patterns and origin of Helicoverpa zea (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) based on a biogeochemical marker'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this