Army Worms

Appearance

Armyworm larvae vary in color from dark greenish-brown to black. On each side, there are long, pale white, orange, and dark brown stripes along the length of the abdomen. The head capsule is yellowish brown with a brown network of veins, giving it a mottled appearance.

Size

Range from 1/16-inch as larvae to 1 and ½ to 2 inches as the mature larvae.Behavior:

During the day, moths remain hidden in grassy vegetation, and can be found under plant debris or in the top few inches of the soil. They are active during the evening, feeding on nectar and mating. Female armyworms feed for 7 to 10 days on honeydew, nectar, or decaying fruit before laying eggs. Newly hatched larvae are pale green and move in a looping motion. Larvae are also active at night, feeding on host plants. Eggs are deposited at night in rows or clusters on the lower leaves of grasses or at the base of plants, often hatching in 1 to 2 weeks. A single female may live as an adult for 17 days and produce up to 2,000 eggs. Larvae pupate just below the soil surface. Adults emerge in 1 to 2 weeks. A second generation occurs in late June or early July and a third in late August or early September.

Habitat

Since moths prefer dense vegetation in which to lay eggs, infestations generally develop in areas such as grassy or weedy pastures or fields. Because of this they are often a problem in crop fields that are not tilled often. Armyworm larvae chew the leaves of small grains and grasses. They may strip the leaf margins and move up the plant to feed on the flowers. Because of their choice of vegetable crops for food, armyworms tend to be more of a nuisance in commercial fields rather than smaller, personal home gardens.

Damage Caused

Though they feed primarily on grasses, armyworms have a very broad host range including important vegetable, fruit, field, and ornamental crops. Vegetables commonly injured include beans, cabbage, carrots, collards, onion, pea, eggplant, okra, pepper, potato, sweet potato, tomato, radish, and watermelon. Other crops damaged include avocado, citrus, peanut, sunflower, velvet bean, tobacco and various flowers

Interesting Fact

It is believed that armyworms get their name from their habit of moving across fields in an army-like fashion. As larvae consume available food sources, they migrate as an army to new host plants.

CONTROL

The risk of potential armyworm infestations can be minimized by control or elimination of grassy weeds from fields or field borders. Moth egg laying activity be reduced, as will the migration of larvae into the field. Armyworms may move from grass or weedy areas to field borders. If armyworms move into fields and infest crop areas, insecticide treatment may be necessary.

The development of economically damaging armyworm populations depends on several factors, including spring moth flights, cropping practices, weather conditions, natural enemies, and others. Most years, armyworm populations are kept below damaging levels by several predators, parasites, and pathogens. Predators such as ground and rove beetles help keep armyworm populations low. There are also several types of viruses and fungi that attack armyworm larvae.

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