What Pests Harm Cotton Plants?

pests-harm-cotton-plants Credit: Kimberly Vardeman/CC-BY-2.0

There are several insects that prey on cotton plants, including boll weevils, cotton leafworms, cotton fleahoppers and cotton aphids. Cotton plants are relatively hardy crops, but are susceptible to damage from a number of bugs and insects. They are attacked by many types of predatory species, including beetles, mites, spiders and aphids.

The primary predatory threats to cotton plants vary depending on the location of the crops and the season. Some cotton plants are damaged in isolated attacks by predatory insects while others face risk of infestation during an extended period of time. In addition to weevils, bollworms, leafworms and fleahoppers, cotton plants may be damaged by several species of stinkbugs, spider mites (also called red spiders), grasshoppers and plant bugs.

As with most crops, cotton plant predators may be difficult to get rid of after arriving, and can be controlled in several different ways. Most farmers and commercial crop growers use pesticides or herbicides, which contain toxic chemicals, to control the spread of insect populations and ideally prevent them from arriving in the first place. These pesticides are most efficient when applied periodically during the course of the growing season, beginning with an initial application during the early spring. Some farmers also make their cotton plants more resistant to predation through the process of selective breeding.