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Armyworms: A Fall Threat to Florida Lawns

Florida fall armyworm pestAs we move into fall, if your lawn has suddenly turned brown or grass has disappeared altogether, the armyworm could be to blame. Feeding on your grass, these pests are very destructive, laying their eggs on blades of grass and leaving destruction in their wake. While they cause the most harm to newly sodded or seeded lawns, armyworms can ruin any Florida lawn.

How to recognize armyworms

Despite their name, armyworms are not actually worms, but caterpillars which grow into a small gray and brown winged moth. The female moth lays masses of approximately a thousand eggs on shrubs, grass, homes, and fences. It takes between two and 10 days for the caterpillars to emerge and start feeding. The larvae of fall army worms are greenish-brown to black. They have long stripes along the lengths of their abdomen which are pale white, orange, and dark brown in color. They can grow between 1 and 1 ½ inches long. The head of mature larvae is a mottled, veiny yellow and brown. Eggs look like small white globes, and are massed in rows or groups, often with the leaf blade rolled around each mass of eggs.

Signs of damage

What type of damage can armyworms do to plants and turf? After growing for a few weeks, the caterpillars feed during the day, eating all green leaf above the ground, and leaving behind big areas of brown turf and thatch. After two to three weeks of this destructive activity, the caterpillars then bury themselves into the top inch of soil and pupate. The result: About two weeks later a new population of moths emerge, and the cycle continues.

If they are feeding, armyworms can be found at the edges of damaged areas, and are most active in the early morning and late afternoon. While many lawns can recover from the infestation, it is almost always deadly for freshly sodded or seeded turf, the grass areas which armyworms typically find most appealing for laying their eggs, due to irrigation and fertilization. Armyworms can cause severe turf damage if left untreated, and the damage can continue until a hard frost occurs.

Get professional pest control for your Florida lawn

So how to defeat this “army?” Contact Turner Pest Control to schedule a visit from one of our lawn care technicians who can identify these pests and recommend an effective treatment.

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