Fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda (J. E. Smith) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae), infestations in most of North America north of Mexico arise from annual migrations of populations that overwinter in southern Texas and Florida. A comparison of the cytochrome oxidase I haplotype profiles within the fall armyworm corn-strain, the subgroup that preferentially infests corn (Zea mays L.) and sorghum (Sorghum vulgare Pers.), identified significant differences in the proportions of certain haplotypes between the Texas and Florida populations. These proportional differences were preserved as the populations migrated, providing a molecular metric by which the source of a migrant population could be identified. The migratory pattern derived from this method for several southeastern states was shown to be consistent with predictions based on analysis of historical agricultural and fall armyworm infestation data. These results demonstrate the utility of haplotype proportions to monitor fall armyworm migration, and they also introduce a potential method to predict the severity of cotton crop infestations in the short term.
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