Landowners should be on the watch for damaging Fall Armyworm populations on hayfields, pastures, lawns, and sports turf fields. Fall armyworms are not able to survive our winters, but they fly up from south Florida and Central America each spring. The moths can fly and are carried on wind currents to North Alabama. The moths lay eggs which develop into tiny caterpillars or “worms”. These caterpillars grow rapidly, and during the last stages will voraciously eat the plant material they need for food. After two to three weeks they caterpillars will be about one inch long, and then they burrow into the ground and pupate. In 10 to 14 days they emerge from the soil as an adult moth. The entire life cycle can be as short as four weeks.
Several cattlemen in this area have reported hayfields being severely damaged by armyworms. There has been at least one sports turf field at a school that had to be sprayed for armyworms to prevent damage. One of the best ways to monitor for armyworm activity is to use a sweep net to check for the small worms. However, many landowners only discover the worms when they reach the largest size. When caterpillars discovered at this late stage, they are doing a lot of damage and are hard to kill. Cattlemen will often cut a hayfield that is being damaged by armyworms to salvage the hay. In other instances, spraying an insecticide is the best course of action. If you would like more information on the life cycle, control tips, and insecticide recommendations, give us a call at (205) 489-5376.