A pest that can be harmful to lawns and crops is now being seen in high numbers in Central Texas.
According to Texas A&M Agrilife Extension County Extension Agent for Agriculture Dr. Shane McLellan, in the past two to three weeks armyworms have been seen mainly in lawns in McLennan County. He added in the last few days, the armyworms have been present in Bermuda grass.
“They eat all the blades of the grass and you are left with the stems sticking out. It just looks unsightly,” McLellan said.
He said armyworms, who are usually active at night, can also be very harmful for crops, including hay, wheat, oats and small grains.
“The biggest negative is economic impact on our production of forage. Hay producers who want to get one more cutting of hay, armyworms eat the field and all their hay is gone,” McLellan said.
Armyworms are not unusual in the fall, but they are not prevalent during warm temperatures, such as the ones Central Texas has been experiencing.
"I'm actually surprised we have the high numbers we have because of the hot daytime temperatures. Normally you see a lot of armyworms after a rain, cool, cloudy conditions. Now is a strange time to have it with the heat we've been having,” McLellan said.
GreenLife Nursery owner Brett Boyd has received several calls from customers who are concerned about the pest ruining their lawns.
"Basically they're seeing these armyworms marching across their yards. Marching like soldiers,” Boyd said. "When there are so many of them. It is obvious what's happening. They'll destroy a lawn in hours."
Boyd dealt with the pest last week when his worker discovered it near the nursery.
"We treated right away and the next day we saw no armyworms. No damage was done. We are fortunate they were caught early,” Boyd said.
According to Boyd, there are several products, both organic and chemical, that can help people get rid of armyworms. He said the insecticides kill the pests within hours but people should still be aware of the pest coming back.
“Keep in the lookout until we have freezing cold weather,” Boyd said.
McLellan said there will be more armyworms, if the temperatures continue to drop.
“If we do have scattered rain showers or big rains we are going to see more of them, especially if the temperature drops to 65 to 80 degrees will have an explosion of that population,” McLellan said.
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