We have been getting reports of extensive Fall Armyworm activity from Wilmington, NC to Opelika, AL and Nashville, TN to Dallas, TX and all parts between.
Lawns are being eaten up almost overnight, which causes great distress to customers who had green lawns one day and a brown lawn the next day. There are a couple of species of Armyworms. The one that is feeding right now is the Fall Armyworm.
Fall Armyworm Facts
- Feed on turf grasses, they prefer Bermuda grass, but will feed on tall fescue, Ryegrass and Bent grass
- Feed on grain crops and many vegetables
- “March” across a lawn, consuming all grass blades of the turf, feed in large numbers
- In warm season turf grass areas, feeds on all Bermudagrass in a lawn, but leaves the St. Augustine or Centipede grass untouched
- Resembles the True Armyworm, with lines running down the side, but head has an inverted Y on it
- Has four dark dots on each abdominal segment
- Coloring is lighter than the True Armyworm.
The Common or True Armyworm Facts
- Mainly feed in circular patches in a lawn
- Eat every bit of green tissue down to the crown of the plant
- Feed on crops, like small grains as well as on pastures or other grassy areas
- Larva are about 1 to 1 ½ inches long
- Grey/grey-brown in color
- Two pale-orange stripes run along each side of the body and another stripe down its back that is also pale-colored
- Head is brown with a net-like pattern
Neither species can overwinter in the northern parts of the US, but the adult moths can survive in the warmer states. There can be several successive broods that continually migrate north each year. The adults are often caught in storms and “fly” several 100 miles at a time.
The female lays her eggs on just about any upright surface, including lamp poles, houses, grass blades and even the ball washer stand on a golf course. She can lay anywhere from 50 to 250 eggs at a time. In the summer, eggs can hatch in as little as three days. Larvae begin feeding almost immediately.
Although Armyworms feed on grass plants, they generally do not feed on the crown of the plant. So, given enough care and water these lawns will recover. The important thing is to monitor for future populations by watching for the egg masses.
If you suspect your lawn has Fall Armyworms, contact your neighborhood lawn care professional at a Spring-Green office near you.