One of the greatest pests of the South, fall army worms can infest and damage lawns in only days. On established turf, their damage may be mostly aesthetic, but on new sodding and newly sprigged areas, the damage is often severe. This can be absolutely devastating to turf. Fortunately, identifying and eliminating these pests is easy to do, but only with the help of a professional.
Fall army worms are 1½ to 2 inches long and may be identified by the series of green, brown, or yellow stripes marking their bodies. Fall army worms are prevalent in the warm months of August and September. As small larvae, they feed on leaves and are active early and late in the day. At first, the leaves may appear to be skeletonized, but as the larvae grow, the leaves are completely consumed. They feed for two to three weeks before they hide in the soil. About two weeks later, they emerge as moths. The entire life cycle is about twenty-eight days.
The first indication of a fall army worm infestation may be the presence of egg masses on objects such as eaves and fences. In days, the eggs hatch and the larvae begin to consume leaves. It is best to eliminate fall army worms at this stage, because as they grow, they pupate the soil and avoid exposure to pesticide.
If the presence of eggs is not noted, try pouring soapy water in the grass. The fall army worms will emerge quickly. Other indicators are clusters of birds or paper wasps that eat the fall army worms. These are natural enemies but are not sufficient in eliminating the pest. Additionally, the presence of greenish-black fecal pellets on the surface of the soil will indicate infestation.
Once an infestation of fall army worms is identified, it is relatively easy to control. Fall army worms have natural enemies such as tiger beetles that can be used in a controlled spot. This takes some timing effort. But the use of pesticides will quickly eliminate the problem, so that is the better route to take. After that, the turf may recover with care.
Pesticides should be applied as late in the day as possible to ensure the worms are active when they are sprayed. It is best to cut grass before pesticide is applied for better coverage. We at Environmental Turf Management offer an effective application to remove these pests.
When quickly and properly identified, fall army worms can be eradicated before extensive damage occurs. Although your turf will eventually recover, an infestation can be costly. It will take time to regrow what has been damaged. When you want fall army worms destroyed, leave it to the professionals and save your turf. Call Environmental Turf Management to schedule a pesticide treatment today.