Fall Armyworm

Fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda)

Fall armyworm is a pest of more than 80 kinds of plant, including maize, rice, sugarcane and cotton. It is found throughout North, South and Central America, where it has caused significant crop damage for decades. Fall armyworm has developed resistance to insecticides in a number of regions, and growers need new solutions to control this pest.

Since 2016 fall armyworm has been spreading throughout Africa and is now present in at least 28 countries. Native to the Americas, fall armyworm (FAW) invaded Africa in 2016 and has rapidly spread to at least 28 countries.  According to a Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International report, FAW has caused an estimated $13.8 billion in losses of maize, sorghum, rice and sugarcane in Africa.

Our Solution

We are working together with a leading agricultural company to develop a self-limiting fall armyworm. We recently achieved a key milestone in the development of this insect, and continue to advance its development.

Read more about how our solution works here.

Previously published mathematical modelling, together with proof-of-concept glasshouse studies with Self-Limiting Diamondback Moth at Cornell University, indicate that regular releases of Self-Limiting male moths will be effective at suppressing pest populations and also offer a resistance management benefit where farmers are faced with pests resistant to other crop protection methods.

You can learn more about this work by clicking on one of the following scientific publications:

Alphey, N., Coleman, P.G., Donnelly, C.A. and Alphey, L. (2007).  Managing insecticide resistance by mass release of engineered insects.  Journal of Economic Entomology, 100: 1642-1649. PAYWALL LINK

Alphey, N., Bonsall, M.B., Alphey, L. (2009) Combining pest control and resistance management: synergy of engineered insects with Bt crops. Journal of Economic Entomology, 102: 717-732x PAYWALL LINK

Harvey-Samuel T, Morrison NI, Walker AS, Marubbi T, Yao J, Collins HL, Gorman K, Davies TGE, Alphey N, Warner S, Shelton AM, Alphey L (2015) Pest control and resistance management through releases of insects carrying a male-selecting transgene. BMC Biology 13: 49. OPEN ACCESS LINK


  • What kind of crop does it damage?
    More than 80 kinds of plants, including maize, rice, sugarcane and cotton.
  • How does it damage them?
    The caterpillars feed on the leaves and stems of plants.
  • Where is it found?
    North, South and Central America, and since 2016 it has been spreading throughout Africa. It has also been intercepted at ports of entry in European countries.
  • What are the economic costs?
    FAW is one of the most difficult pests to control and can cause production loss of 17-52%. Current control measures including GM traits, chemical insecticides and biological control measures are part of the ~$3 billion chemical insecticide market. In Africa maize losses are estimated to be US$6.1 billion annually, if control measures are not put in place.