Protect your grass from armyworms

Published 8:25 am Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Late summer and early fall are usually the peak season for fall armyworm invasions of well managed turf, especially bermudagrass lawns, athletic fields and golf courses that have been fertilized and watered.

However, fall armyworms have arrived early this year.

The moths migrate in large numbers and lay as many as a thousand eggs each.

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During these hot days of summer the eggs hatch in only a few days with the tiny caterpillars feeding almost continuously.

When small they may go unnoticed while consuming only a small amount of leaf tissue daily, but nearing their last few days as larvae, they can literally devour an entire lawn almost overnight.

Therefore, it is important that a careful scouting regime be established to detect their presence and control them while they are small.

At least once a week during the remaining growing season randomly check several locations in the lawn by brushing the grass back and forth with your hand, part the blades down to the soil line, and look for coiled light tan or green to nearly black caterpillars.

If you care to pick one of them up and look at it straight on you may notice a small inverted “Y” marking on its forehead. A tip that golf course superintendents use to alert them of their arrival is checking the flags on the greens each morning for small light brown egg masses that have been laid on them by the moths during the night.

You might try placing a small flag or white flat stake in your lawn as well.

Other indicators of their presence are flocks of birds on your lawn or an abundance of paper wasp hovering close to the turf canopy as both feed on the caterpillars.

Control is not too difficult if the lawn is treated with an appropriate insecticide when the caterpillars are small. Liquid sprays or granules containing active ingredients of bifenthrin, carbaryl, cyfluthrin, lambda-cyhalothrin, permethrin or trichorfon are recommended.

Contact your local county Extension Service for more information.


By Eddie Smith

Pearl River County Agent for Mississippi State University Extension Service