All About Armyworms

armyworm eating leaves of a plantIt’s hard to believe something so small can cause such devastating damage.

No, we’re not talking about another virus. Texas and other states are currently under an invasion of armyworms. These crawling caterpillars can quickly decimate grass and damage crops, so it’s important to know what they look like and how to address the problem.

What is an Armyworm?

Armyworm is a term used to identify the larval stage of a brownish-white moth. They look like harmless caterpillars, but armyworms are known for their invasive behavior. Left unchecked they can do serious damage, causing farmers to lose hundreds of millions of dollars of crops.

Armyworms have color combinations of green, brown, and black, and they usually have an inverted Y on their head. They small but mighty creatures, only growing to one inch in length. They’re often called “fall armyworms” because they are more prevalent in cooler weather, but the larvae can appear when summer temperatures drop or there is significant rainfall. They got their namesake from the fact that they march across hay fields, eating the grass in their path.

They are especially fond of Bermuda grass, hay and barley, but will also munch on corn, sweet potatoes, and cabbages, making them pests to just about every home garden, farm, and commercial landscape in Texas.

Preventing An Invasion

Armyworms are hungry and work fast; they can eat a lawn overnight, turning healthy grass brown in a matter of hours. This is why it’s important to quickly identify when they’ve arrived and take steps to control the damage early on.

As the old saying goes, the best defense is a good offense. A healthy landscape is more likely to withstand an armyworm attack. Regularly watering, aerating, and trimming your grass is the best way to defend against any landscape pest. If you know armyworms are prevalent in your area, check your lawn regularly for signs of the larvae.

Another preventative strategy is to incorporate xeriscaping into your existing landscape. Less grass means moths have fewer places to lay their eggs, and the larvae are less likely to munch on drought-tolerant, hardy xeriscape plants.

How to Control Damage

Once armyworms move into an area, it’s vital to act quickly. Armyworms don’t just eat one lawn and stop; they’ll continue on and cause costly damage to landscapes and crops in a region.

The best way to combat armyworms is to stop an invasion in the egg or larval stage. Female moths only live a few weeks but can lay up to 1,000 eggs in that time. It’s easy to see how a few moths can quickly cause an invasion.

Fortunately, there are some natural predators that help control these pests. Birds will eat armyworm caterpillars and moths, while lacewings ladybugs love to munch on the eggs. A healthy lawn is more likely to have beneficial bugs that can help combat armyworms. Pheromone traps can also keep armyworm moths from mating, stopping the invasive cycle before it starts.

For larger landscapes or serious invasions, there are insecticides or horticultural sprays that can be used. Your local landscaping expert can advise what is best for your lawn.

EarthWorks property reps are already scanning the Bermuda turf areas of our properties for any signs of armyworm existence. If and when they are found we are treating the areas for eradication. If you think your landscape has armyworm damage, don’t hesitate to contact us today. We have several strategies on hand to help control armyworm invasions. The sooner we address the issue, the sooner you can get back to enjoying a healthy and beautiful lawn.


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