There’s an Infestation in Our Midst
Is your Jonesboro area lawn turning brown? Does it look like the bubonic plague just went through it? Look at it closer. Do the blades of your grass appear chewed upon? It could be an infestation of armyworms. These often misunderstood moth larvae attack without notice, move in army formation from one host to the next, and damage plants very quickly. And for many businesses and homeowners in Georgia, this year has been a doozy.
According to Eric Rebek, an Oklahoma State University entomologist, this year’s caterpillar infestation is attacking an “unprecedented” level. They are destroying lawns across the Northeast, Midwest, South, and Southwest.
Scientists believe one of the reasons they are such a problem this year is weather patterns. Before fall armyworms became caterpillars, a ton of summer storm fronts blew moths far and wide so they could lay eggs in new, more fertile areas.
Here at Duncan’s Green Team, we have been getting a ton of confused and angry calls the last few weeks, with bewildered customers not sure what is happening to their lawn. That’s why we have taken the liberty to explain what these hungry critters are, the damage they can do to your lawn, and what to do to stop them.
How To Identify Armyworms
Armyworms receive their name because they are often seen “marching” across golf courses, athletic fields, cornfields, and business and residential lawns. They can be found in every state, including Georgia, where they usually appear in late August. Adult armyworms are dark grey with wings that contain light and dark splotches. They can easily be identified by the inverted “Y” marking on their face. Their young vary in color and have long white, orange, and brown stripes along the length of their abdomen on each side.
The Damage Armyworms Can Do to Your Jonesboro Lawn
After hatching, armyworm caterpillars create web-like nests in your grass. These web tunnels allow them to take shelter in the lawn during the day and feed safely at night. Here they will munch on low-growing turf. Later in the season, they become mobile and start to climb up grass and other plants in search of food. While their favorite food is corn, the larvae or armyworms will feast on anything. This includes your turf, including Bermudagrass, St. Augustine, centipede, and zoysia, as well as crops including corn, lettuce, soybeans, cabbage, and peanuts.
Unfortunately, because these little buggers do most of their damage at night, you may not know you have them until you notice brown patches of your lawn growing bigger by day.
Other signs to look for include:
- Small brown patches
- Ragged blades of grass that look torn or chewed
- Bare spots on your lawn
- Areas of scratched disturbed lawn. Animals like skunks, birds, raccoons, and possums will tear up your turf to get to the armyworms, which they consider a tasty treat.
How To Stop Armyworms
Now that you know what these problematic pests are, what can you do about them? The best way to stop armyworms is to stop them before they destroy your lawn. But because they are only active at night and more than likely you didn’t know they were there, here are a few ways you can combat them.
Combat Them With the Organic Approach
You can try spraying them with a harmless bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis but it only works when the caterpillars are still young and a half-inch long or smaller. It is available in liquid and powdered forms and will also eliminate other garden pests such as cabbage loopers, cabbage worms, tomato hornworms, cutworms, etc. For adult caterpillars, you can buy garden insecticides labeled for armyworms at your local garden supply store.
Fight Nature With Nature
Sometimes you have to fight nature with nature. Birds such as robins and starlings love armyworms. Put up a few feeders and plant trees that attract birds. There are a few insects that have been found effective at killing armyworms as well. They include:
- Parasitic wasps: They are harmless to humans but feed on armyworms and other garden pests.
- Ladybugs: Ladybugs can be purchased in bulk to be unleashed on destructive garden pests. Ladybugs will eat any armyworm eggs that they come across.
- Lacewings: Also, feed on the eggs of armyworms
Nematodes are microscopic creatures that live in soil and love to feed on the larvae of many harmful and damaging insects, including armyworms. Nematodes are considered safe, environmentally friendly, won’t harm your soil, and are easy to use. And they are becoming more and more popular for the use of combating damaging lawn insects.
But be forewarned. Using nematodes can be challenging as the timing has to be precise and the conditions accurate. And the entire process can be quite horrifying to watch, like something out of the scene of a horror movie.
Get Professional Armyworm Control With Duncan’s Green Team
Your best bet is to call in the professionals. Duncan’s Green Team are your local lawn care professionals serving the entire Jonesboro and surrounding areas. For the ultimate armyworm control, we can help treat your lawn with our granular or spray armyworm treatments.