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Armyworms – sometimes referred to as “fall armyworms” – are a nasty little pest that has increasingly become a problem in the northern half of the United States. They have always been a part of the ecosystem, but an increase in the recent number of armyworms has caused them to exceed the 5-worms-per-square-foot recommended level.
So What Exactly are Armyworms?
Armyworms are actually the caterpillar life stage of a common moth. It’s really not a worm at all. However, the “army” part of the name is pretty well pot on, as this bug will proceed through a garden en masse. If you see one armyworm, you certainly have others nearby.
The armyworm stage lasts a few weeks, from the emergence of the worm to the preparation for the adult stage. You may be able to see the pre-armyworm state, when slightly fluffy masses of eggs are deposited on trees and on the leaves of plants. If you see this, try to eliminate it when possible.
How Destructive are Armyworms?
Armyworms can tear through an area in only a few days. With a diet that pretty much consists of only grasses and grains, they can destroy a crop in only a few days. They will target other crops as well, and have been known to damage crops from cabbage, to corn, to zucchini. This can be particularly frustrating if you were hoping to sell or eat some of those crops in the fall and winter.
How Can You Get Rid of Armyworms?
We always prefer to use a natural or organic method of getting rid of pests, but sometimes you may just need a bit more in the way of power. Here are, in no particular order, some of our favorite effective methods for getting rid of armyworms:
- Attract predatory birds that will feed on the armyworms while also adding some attractive color to the lawn.
- Other bugs work just as well, but will then just leave you with a different bug that you may need to get out of your lawn and garden at a later date.
- Natural horticultural oil sprays are good for helping to repel the pests, but won’t necessarily kill them off.
- Standard or organic insecticides will kill off the bugs, but may harm other insects that you want to keep in the garden. On top of that, using insecticides on plants for human consumption is not recommended.
Are Armyworms Preventable?
Armyworms are quite susceptible to the cold, and won’t appear once frost starts to be a daily feature. The best methods of prevention are the same as the methods for getting rid of them. Encouraging predators or using sprays and chemicals will make the armyworms reconsider things, and may keep them moving along to the next lawn.
Chances are, you’ll run into these bugs over time while working in the lawn and garden. Just remember that seeing one or two through a period of time doesn’t necessarily mean your lawn is being invaded. This is just a normal part of the local ecosystem, and these small doses may even be good for your lawn.