This fall you may have noticed something new wriggling and writhing around in your yard. Armyworms are such a common occurrence in the southeast during autumn they’re sometimes referred to as fall armyworms.
Armyworms are actually caterpillars that haven’t yet become armyworm moths. The moths migrate to the southern states during the summer where they have 1-3 generations of babies. The last generation of each year is usually born in late August or early September. Some years Alabama has seen armyworms as early as April if the adult moths decide to have two or all three generations in the warm southern region.
Armyworm eggs hatch after just a week or two, producing a lot of light green larvae that mature into dark green or brown caterpillars. When the weather starts to cool off the moths will head further south to overwinter, but armyworms could still be left behind. These little buggers get their name because they have a tendency to move together in an army-like fashion. Together they can devour lawns and gardens overnight, especially if the armyworms are more mature.
While Vulcan Termite and Pest Control Inc. does provide treatment for yard pests, we don’t specifically treat for armyworms. However, there are a few things you can do to protect your lawn and keep fall armyworms from becoming a problem.
Keep an Eye on Things in the Evening
Are you suddenly seeing brown spots or thinning on your lawn? If so, you may have an armyworm infestation. Fall armyworms become more active at certain times of the day, namely when it’s cooler. You’re most likely to see them in the early morning, late afternoon and evening. If you suspect you may have an armyworm problem grab a flashlight and head outside at dusk. Check in the soil around the damaged area for caterpillars, green larvae and frass.
Keep Your Lawn Mowed and Healthy
Armyworms primarily attack lawns. As far as the experts at the Alabama Cooperative Extension System can tell their favorite meal is Bermuda grass. If you’ve been working to keep your lawn green all summer now is not the time to let maintenance slip.
When the lawn is mowed low armyworms will feed on it less. Tall grass, on the other hand, gives fall armyworms coverage so they can keep eating during the warm hours. Grass that is unhealthy and weak will also be more susceptible to armyworm damage.
Protect Your Fall Garden
Just because you don’t have a large lawn doesn’t mean you don’t have to worry about armyworms. They may prefer Bermuda grass, but there are over 80 plants that armyworms are known to eat. In that group are nearly all vegetables.
Prevention is the key for gardeners. Some use pheromone traps to catch moths. If you catch moths that have an identifiable white spot on the forewing those are the parents of fall armyworms. You’ll need to be on the lookout for eggs and armyworms around your garden.
Bird, ladybugs and nematodes are all natural predators of fall armyworms. Their presence should be encouraged because they’ll eat eggs, larvae and caterpillars. We’ll have more fall garden tips for you a little later this month, so stay tuned for that.
Insecticide as a Last Resort
Usually insecticide isn’t necessary for residential properties, but if you have a large garden or lawn and a serious infestation it might be needed. The issue with insecticides is they won’t do much good unless the infestation is caught early because fall armyworms move so quickly. Another concern is that some insecticides will only treat larvae or large caterpillars, not both.
If you choose to use insecticide it’s extremely important to enlist the help of a knowledgeable professional. If you need regular pest control treatments or would like a recommendation for handling fall armyworms, give Vulcan Termite and Pest Control Inc. a call!