Since the last few years, farmers in the Yavatmal region of Maharashtra have been challenged by pests like the pink bollworm on cotton which is assuming menacing proportions, and this year too farmers have noticed with alarm, an early onset of the pest.The dangerous chemical cocktail of pesticides used by farmers in the area has resulted in rampant pesticide poisoning.Multiple measures like pheromone and light traps, multi-cropping and changing cropping seasons have been initiated, but the effectiveness of these measures remain to be seen. On August 10, when Sanjay Rathod walked to his lush cotton field in Lasina village in Yavatmal, Maharashtra, he noticed some closed yellow flowers. Opening them, he found to his horror the tiny larvae of the pink bollworm. He shared a photo with other farmers on Whatsapp groups and immediately got a response on what pesticides he should use. Accordingly, he sprayed an insecticide Larvin and some neem spray. They didn’t have any effect. He is now terrified of a repeat of last year when he lost half the cotton on his six acres of land, to the pink bollworm menace. From the main road, his field in a 15-20 minute walk and you can sink knee deep into the soft soil. Walking around, he obsessively checks each flower and finds a number of the pests. “They are early this year,” he says, downcast. He has installed pheromone traps, in which he finds nothing, and a light trap as well. The next day, the district agricultural officers paid a visit to his farm and found that the pest attack was not serious and below the economic threshold level (ETL). “It’s a healthy field,” proclaimed Pramod Yadgiriwar, associate director, research, zonal agricultural research station, Dr. Punjabrao Deshmukh Krishi Vidyapeeth, Akola. However, Rathod is not very convinced. He is still anxious that he will lose his crop as the scientists didn’t check the whole field. The pink bollworm have spread in the cotton fields in Yavatmal district, Maharashtra. Attempts to curb them have been ineffective and and have caused immense stress on the cotton farmers. Photo by Meena Menon. Over a week later, he found few pink bollworms but noticed sap-sucking pests and is now seeking advice from Yadgiriwar on how to deal with them. One of the issues with Bt cotton has been a resurgence of secondary pests, the mealy bug among them. Light traps and pheromone traps dot the cotton landscape in Yavatmal district in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra. This is the epicentre of farmer suicides in the country and in addition to the farm distress, since the last few years, farmers are challenged by pests like the pink bollworm (larvae of the moth Pectinophora gossypiella) on cotton which is assuming menacing proportions. This year too, farmers have noticed with alarm, an early onset of the pest. The pink bollworm has not caused much trouble in India unlike the green or American bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera) which used to devastate cotton. Bt cotton, a genetically modified pest resistant variety, was launched to tackle the green bollworm in 2002. However, last year (2017), pink bollworm damage was widespread in Maharashtra and many farmers are still waiting for the compensation announced by the government. This pest has added to the complex theatre of distress in Yavatmal.