Estimating the economic cost of one of the world's major insect pests, Plutella xylostella (Lepidoptera: Plutellidae): just how long is a piece of string?

J Econ Entomol. 2012 Aug;105(4):1115-29. doi: 10.1603/EC12107.


Since 1993, the annual worldwide cost of diamondback moth, Plutella xylostella (L.) (Lepidoptera: Plutellidae), control has been routinely quoted to be US$1 billion. This estimate requires updating and incorporation of yield losses to reflect current total costs of the pest to the world economy. We present an analysis that estimates what the present costs are likely to be based on a set of necessary, but reasoned, assumptions. We use an existing climate driven model for diamondback moth distribution and abundance, the Food and Agriculture Organization country Brassica crop production data and various management scenarios to bracket the cost estimates. The "length of the string" is somewhere between US$1.3 billion and US$2.3 billion based on management costs. However, if residual pest damage is included then the cost estimates will be even higher; a conservative estimate of 5% diamondback moth-induced yield loss to all crops adds another US$2.7 billion to the total costs associated with the pest. A conservative estimate of total costs associated with diamondback moth management is thus US$4 billion-US$5 billion. The lower bound represents rational decision making by pest managers based on diamondback moth abundance driven by climate only. The upper estimate is due to the more normal practice of weekly insecticide application to vegetable crops and the assumption that canola (Brassica napus L.) is treated with insecticide at least once during the crop cycle. Readers can decide for themselves what the real cost is likely to be because we provide country data for further interpretation. Our analysis suggests that greater efforts at implementation of even basic integrated pest management would reduce insecticide inputs considerably, reducing negative environmental impacts and saving many hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brassica / economics
  • Brassica / parasitology*
  • Insect Control / economics*
  • Internationality
  • Models, Biological
  • Moths / physiology*