The end of summer means back to school, a break from hot weather on the horizon… and the occasional emergence of Armyworms here in Georgia.
Armyworms cannot survive freezing temperatures, and migrate from north to south in the late Summer and early Fall. The amount of rainfall and wind can affect Armyworm migration and reproduction, and the size of the local Armyworm population and extent of the damage caused by the hungry pests can vary greatly year to year.
What does an Armyworm Infestation Look Like?
Armyworms are most active at night, and the first sign of an Armyworm infestation is brown patches that appear in your lawn overnight. True to their name, Armyworms appear in groups and move as a unit. Once they have depleted the food source in one area, Armyworms will collectively move to a nearby area to feed – usually making the move at night. Armyworms spend the hotter daylight hours on the shady, cool areas near the soil.
Female Armyworms lay clusters of 100-200 tiny eggs which have been described as fluffy, furry or moldy-looking masses, and can be found on a variety of surfaces such as leaves to porches and fence posts. Within 5-10 days, the eggs hatch and tiny larva spend the next several weeks eating, which results in the visible damage. The Armyworms then pupate and emerge as adults 10 days later. The full life cycle from egg to moth takes approximately 30 days in the late Summer and early Fall. Interestingly, Armyworms almost double their lifespan in cooler weather.
Typically a minimum of three generations are produced during late Summer and early Fall influxes here in Georgia, but some species of Armyworms can produce up to six generations in one season. In the right conditions, hundreds of Armyworms can quickly become thousands of Armyworms and decimate a lawn.
Can my Lawn Recover from an Armyworm Infestation?
Armyworms do have natural predators, but some years the Armyworm population can reproduce faster than the birds, wasps, ground beetles and other natural enemies can handle. Handy Andy Outdoors clients who see signs of an Armyworm infestation in their turfgrass should contact our office immediately and our landscape professionals will act quickly to minimize the damage. While armyworms defoliate turfgrass, they do not always kill it and established lawns that are otherwise healthy should be able to bounce back. However, as with any disease or pest infestation, the key is early identification and treatment.