Pest Control and the European Corn Borer

The European corn borer (ECB) is a major pest of corn in the United States. It is a small, black and white moth that lays its eggs on the leaves of corn plants. The larvae hatch and tunnel into the stalks, ears, and leaves of the plant, causing significant damage.

The European corn borer gets its name from its habit of boring holes into all components of the corn plant. The damage to the leaves reduces photosynthesis. Damage to the corn stalk decreases the amount of water and nutrients the plant can transport to the ear. European corn borers also eat the ear - which reduces crop yield - and the ear shank, which often results in the ear falling to the ground, making it unharvestable


ECB can reduce crop yields by up to 50%, and it can also make corn more susceptible to other pests and diseases.

ECB is a problem because it is a very destructive pest. It can cause significant damage to corn crops, which can lead to economic losses for farmers. ECB is also difficult to control, as it has developed resistance to many insecticides.


Bt corn is a type of genetically modified organism (GMO) that has been enhanced through biotechnology to protect against insect pests. The built-in insect protection comes from a naturally occurring microorganism called Bacillus thuringiensis or “Bt." The protein produced by Bt corn selectively targets caterpillars within the order of Lepidoptera, which includes several moth species harmful to corn.

Bt corn is created by selecting the gene for a particular Bt toxin and inserting it into the cells of corn or cotton plant at the embryo stage. The resulting mature plant has the Bt gene in all its cells and expresses the insecticidal protein in its leaves. Caterpillars ingest the toxin, which fatally damages the lining of the gut.

Use of Bt Corn


1. The graph shows what general trend in the use of Bt corn?

2. How is the use of Bt corn related to the use of pesticides?

3. If Bt corn is an effective method for controlling the European Corn Borer, what other information would you need?

4. If you wanted to know how safe Bt corn was for human and animal consumption, what information would you need to gather?

5. Evaluate the decision for farmers to switch from pesticides to Bt corn. Do you think this is a good choice? Why or why not.

Related Resources

Google Slides: DNA and Biotechnology

Genetic Engineering Concept Map

Genetic Engineering Simulation

Biotechnology and Cloning

Corn Seeds for Growing (Amazon)