CENTRAL TEXAS — An armyworm is a small caterpillar that would love for nothing more than to eat grass all day. Unfortunately, that grass may be your lawn.
Farmers have had to work extra hard this year to keep the bugs off of their crops. The caterpillars will make a meal out of almost any plant, but grass is its favorite food. Bermuda grass especially, which is why hay farmers have had it so rough this summer. But the damage doesn't stop there.
"It's not just farmers and ranchers affected. It's the businesses that feed into the rural economies," said associate director of Texas Farm Bureau, Tracy Tomascik.
But you don't have to be involved in commerce to be affected by the moth larvae. As long as you've got grass in your yard, it can be a target for armyworms. The fairly wet summer has aided the bugs in multiplying.
Branch director of Sureguard Pest Control, Andy Perkins, said if you see a dead spot in your lawn armyworms may be to blame.
"They come and feed off the grass in patches," said Perkins. "You see something like a patch, brown spot, it's eaten up, it's because you probably have armyworms."
So what can you do to prevent the pests from making your yard a buffet? Well, as it turns out, not much.
There are some over-the-counter treatments you can buy but the best method is to have a pest control professional take care of it.
"A pest control professional would be an ideal thing," said Perkins. "It's just, it's upon the professional to determine the application method and what kind of equipment they need."
The treatment usually involves spraying down the lawn with an insecticide, completing what's known as a "contact kill." Ridding your lawn of the caterpillars one time may not be the end of the battle. As long as other armyworms are hatching in nearby fields, it's easy for them to flock to your yard again.
"You might need multiple treatments. It just depends on the situation in that moment when the applicator will come and inspect your yard," said Perkins.
The most effective method for stamping out the pests would be allowing a hard freeze to work its magic, but it's going to be a while before we get any assistance from nature. The cold grip of the late fall months may be the one thing that can truly snuff out a pack of armyworms for good.