Take a close look at your grass. Does it seem as if the blades are moving? If so, take a closer look because it may not be the breeze blowing through your lawn. In fact, it may not be the grass at all! It could be something pretty gross, actually. What are we talking about? Armyworms!
Are Armyworms Invading Your Yard?
These invasive pests munch on grass, ornamental plants, fruits, and veggies, and they munch on them quickly, leaving virtually nothing behind. Armyworms can be a destructive force and can completely decimate your once beautiful yard. That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to your property so that at the first sign of an armyworm infestation, you can act fact and stop them dead in their tracks.
What are armyworms?
Despite the moniker, armyworms aren’t really worms at all. They’re actually the caterpillars of several different species of moth.
There are several different types of armyworms, including:
They thrive in warm, semi-dry environments. In fact, the climates of central Texas and Kansas are prime locations for these pests. While all of the species can be destructive, the fall armyworm tends to cause the most problems for a lawn.
They’ve been dubbed armyworms because they travel in small packs and march along like small armies, munching on plants along the way and leaving a path of destruction in their wake.
What do armyworms look like?
Because there are a variety of species, armyworms differ in appearance. On average, they’re approximately 1 ½ inches long when they’re full-grown. Their colors vary and can include tan, green, and black. The distinguishing feature among all species of armyworms is the inverted Y that appears on the back of the head.
How to tell if you have an armyworm infestation
While armyworms can and do eat pretty much any type of grass, they do have preferences, including fescue, buffalo grass, bluegrass, and ryegrass. Therefore, if you have any of these varieties of grass, you’re more likely to fall victim to an armyworm infestation.
The sooner you detect these pests, the easier eradicating them will be, and the less damage your landscape will sustain. Because they are active at night, you’re going to need to do your sleuth work after sunset. However, they do leave tag marks behind that can be spotted when the sun is still up.
Signs of an armyworm infestation include:
- Patches of brown spots suddenly appearing on your lawn
- An increased presence of birds flocking to your landscape, as birds love dining on these pests (however, they won’t be able to eat enough to eradicate the problem)
Depending on the extent of the problem, you may even be able to see the creepy-crawlies on your driveway or walkway, too. Armyworm infestations tend to become more of a concern when the rainfall is higher than usual in the late summer. If that describes the weather in your region, you’re definitely going to want to be on the lookout for these destructive caterpillars.
How to get rid of armyworms
Fortunately, there are some things that you can do to get rid of armyworms. As mentioned, the sooner you detect the problem, the easier getting rid of them will be. Here are some tips that have proven to be effective:
- Cut the grass short and water it thoroughly. Doing so will make it easier to see the pests in your grass.
- Spray a liquid insecticide over the grass (follow the manufacturer’s instructions and precautions). You could try a granular insecticide. Although, they usually aren’t as effective as the liquid variety.
- After applying the insecticide, leave your grass alone for a few days. In other words, don’t water, mow, rake, or walk over it. The less disturbed it is, the better the insecticide will work.
If you find that your efforts aren’t working or if the problem is severe and you don’t think that you can tackle it on your own, calling in a pest professional is your best bet.
- ‘Unprecedented’ outbreak of armyworms are destroying lawns across the US, often overnight
- Nebraska Extension Hort Update for Sept. 7, 2021: Armyworms
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