What is an armyworm?
If you’ve been following the news, you’ve likely already seen reports about the new (old) enemy that’s moved into your yard: the armyworm. The Spodoptera frugiperda (sciency name) often makes a seasonally march to our yards and crops in the autumn, wreaking havoc along the way.
This year, their sense of time must be a bit busted because they are here and making a home of our lawns early. These terrors of crops and lawns alike are intriguing in many facets, especially how they migrate in large groups. These marches from field to field, lawn to lawn, are likely how they got their name.
Or their name may have been derived from their coloring: looking almost like brown and tan camouflage, the armyworm features stripes that run down its back and sides, dark brown and allowing it to blend in with soil easily. They also range greatly varied in size, from teeny tiny to almost as long as a thumb.
While these tiny attackers swarm your lawns and gardens with precision and in a mass effort, they aren’t actually worms. In fact, come later in the year, we will see these pests in a very different form: the armyworm moth. That’s right – these pesky destroyers are actually fuzzless caterpillars.
Signs of Their Troublemaking
You have likely already put down your phone, tablet, or laptop to rush outside and see if you see any telltale sign of this invading army; reaching your destination, you realize that you haven’t the first idea of what you are looking for. After all, if this army is so good at camouflage, how can you tell if they are already wrecking your landscape?
There are times you may wish that these tiny larvae weren’t such destructive little beasts – otherwise, they might be the perfect solution to having your yard mowed. Unfortunately, if they are a really hungry troop, they will quite literally mow patches of your lawn – to the death.
Your fall armyworms like to either make a big meal of large swaths of grass or sometimes take nibbles enough out of the blades that it looks like the damage is minimal – when in truth, it’s truly detrimental to the health of the grass. So if you see circular brown patches start popping up on your lawn when they weren’t there as you went to bed the night before, you likely have an armyworm infestation.
Facts About Armyworms
If you are reading this during daylight hours, you will likely not see these marching (slithering? Inching?) units right now anyway. The armyworm knows how to get business done – when no one is around to see them do it.
The operatives of pests like to coordinate their attacks under the cover of night. They can travel great distances and are happy to move onto literal greener pastures once their demolition of one area is complete. They leave in their wake pastures of dead grass and grain. All while you’re snug as a bug in a rug, under your comfy covers.
The armyworm, all three main varieties, are infamous for traveling during the earlier parts of fall since they are not big fans of the cold. When a freeze is coming on, these buggers have typically already removed their troops from battle, ready to migrate into cocoons and transform into moths.
Yep, you read it right before – three MAIN varieties. The most common to our neck of the woods are the fall, true, or lawn armyworm. What you’re seeing predominantly in the news today is the fall armyworm – thus named for apparent reason. All three troop types love our grass here and any grainy crops they can get their many feet on.
Once these pests earn their wings after having their fill of your lawn, they keep their nocturnal habits up. Adult armyworms – or armyworm moths – are often dark in color, making it easier to hide during the day and do their thing at night.
Your home and lawn are such an awesome place to be that many different pests want to host a fall soiree at your place – and are moving in as we speak to do just that. Taking their cue from the regimented armyworms, many different pests hope to take advantage of your space with the cooler months coming along soon.
Take the box elder bug. These bugs love to bask in the glow of the sun in its waning days before the winter sets in – right on the walls of your home. Then, knowing the cold is making its way, they find holes in the walls to rest during the winter months.
Some of the turf damage may look similar to what the armyworm may do, but not quite the same – and that may be an indicator that a different invader has made its way to your lawn: the grub. There is, unfortunately, a good bit of parallel to the damage that these pests can do to armyworms, so watching out for both is a wise idea.
What Can Be Done?
Some preventative measures can be taken to help offer you some defense against the invading army(worms). One of the most straightforward methodologies is to mow the grass according to your grass type. Please make sure the height is correct and mowed at the intervals that work best with it.
Keeping weeds at bay is another premier strategy. Armyworms like to army crawl their way through thatch to stay hidden during the day hours – including any weeds that are grassy in nature.
Who Can Fight Back?
Enlist the help of your friends at Divine Lawns to battle these pesty armyworms, beating them back away from your fortress. Divine will stand up to these tiny menaces, with a big, “Not today, armyworms, not today!” We pride ourselves on our ability to provide outstanding service to our communities and make your lawns unforgettable – it isn’t a great lawn, after all, unless it’s Divine.