The Q&A Archives: Pests On Corn Silk

Question: Last year as my corn approached maturity, something chewed off all the silk, resulting in very few developed kernals. When I picked the corn, I found earwigs burrowed under the husks. Could they have been what ate the silk and, if so, what can I use this year to control the problem?

Answer: You may be dealing with two problems here. Undeveloped kernels of corn indicate poor pollination. This can happen when pollen grains do not reach, and travel down, the silks. If the silks were chewed off prior to receiving pollen from the tassles, it would result in poorly developed kernels on your ears of corn. If the silks were in good condition when pollen was released from the tassles, then weather, or some other factor prevented the kernels from developing. Try planting your corn in blocks as opposed to rows to see if that doesn't remedy the situation next year. Earwigs and Corn Ear Worms can each cause problems with corn. Earwigs generally like to hide in cool, dark, moist areas. They may or may not be feeding upon your corn. Corn Ear Worms definitely feed on developing kernels and can destroy the tips of corn. An easy way to discourage both pests is to put a few drops of mineral oil into the top of each ear after the silks wilt and start to turn brown. Don't apply too soon or you'll prevent complete pollination! Hope you have better luck with your corn this season.

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