Recently here in Sampson County and surrounding counties, farmers have been reporting damage from armyworms to their bermudagrass pastures and hayfields. Just this past week I witnessed how quickly these pests can infest and consume an entire field almost overnight.
The fall armyworm is a chronic pest here in North Carolina and the rest of the Southeast. It feeds on many forage crops, but appears to prefer a lush healthy stand of bermudagrass that we grow so abundantly here in Sampson County. The fall armyworm prefers many of common winter annuals grown here such as Rye, Wheat and Oats. Those who have had armyworms attack their pastures and hayfields know how devastating it can be and how much damage the one and half-inch long larva can cause.
Fall armyworms, as their name implies, are most numerous in late summer to early fall. Damage can typically be seen during the months of August through October. However in times of drought (such as now) it is not uncommon to have an outbreak in July. This is because natural enemies of the armyworm are less effective during drought. Scouting your pastures and hayfields can help identify infestations before significant and economic damage is caused. An easy sign is the presence of flocks of birds feeding in your fields or pastures. Armyworms are most active in the early morning or late afternoon. If you have spotted armyworms but don’t see them later on, they are probably still there. You can mix soap (dawn or any other dish detergent) and water and dump on an area of your pasture. The worms will then come up out of the ground.
If you have fall armyworms, there are several pesticides labeled for their control. Some are already used in other crops such as cotton and corn for control of budworms or bollworms. The extension office will assist any grower with identifying armyworms and help find a pesticide that fits your needs. If you already plan to spray for armyworms be sure to read and understand haying, grazing, and worker re-entry restrictions, to ensure no residues are left on your grass or hay. Fall armyworms are already marching across Sampson County and the extension office is here to help you in your battle against them. Be vigilant and scout your fields often to prevent the devastating effects of these small invaders.
Please contact the Extension office at 910-592-7161 for more information.