How to Get Rid of Armyworms in Your Yard
If you have ever seen your garden plants skeletonized overnight, then you may have witnessed the destructive power of the armyworm. These larvae of different species of moths have a ferocious appetite and will strip any plant bare. Armyworms get their name because of how they march across a lawn like an army, devouring every plant in their path. Signs of armyworm activity may appear as a brown patch in your grass that gets bigger every day or skeletonized plants.
As you might have guessed, armyworms get their name from the characteristic way they go marching across golf courses, athletic fields, cornfields, and business and residential lawns. They can be found in every state, and last summer is typically when they begin to emerge. Adult armyworms have dark grey coloring and wings with light and dark splotches and are characterized by an inverted capital “Y” shape on their heads. Their larvae, the caterpillars that ruin lawns, can be dark greenish-brown to black in color. They have long, white, orange, and dark brown stripes along the length of their abdomen on each side.
The Life Cycle of Armyworms
While they’re most infamous for ruining lawns, armyworms will seek out anywhere to lay their eggs: blades of grass, fences, walls, storage, sheds, and of course, your lawn. Females can lay hundreds of eggs that appear off-white in color in clusters on the underside of leaves. The incubation period for these eggs can be anywhere from 5 to 10 days. When temperatures are warm enough, the eggs will hatch and new caterpillars will emerge and begin to feed. They burrow into the soil and, after several weeks, will mutate a final time and emerge as adult moths. Armyworms can have several generations in a single year, and in warm climates, they are active all year.
The life cycle of an armyworm varies from species to species but tends to be 30-90 days from egg to adult stage. Adult moths typically live for only nine to 14 days. It may be a short life, but they can do a lot of damage in that amount of time, especially as females can lay 1,000 to 1,500 eggs in their short life.
Signs Of Armyworm Damage
After hatching, armyworm caterpillars create web-like nests in your grass. These web tunnels allow them to take shelter in the lawn during the day and feed safely at night. As they begin to grow into adults, they will venture farther and farther up the blades of grass until they can seek out other food sources. They will dine on pretty much any plant they can find, including grasses such as bermuda and zoysia, but also crops, such as peanuts, corn, lettuce, cabbage, and soybeans. Corn is actually their preferred meal.
As mentioned previously, armyworms are mainly active at night, so unless you’re taking the time to go outside with a flashlight and scour the lawn, you probably won’t notice the caterpillars themselves. Still, you’ll certainly notice the damage they leave behind. Some of the signs of armyworm damage include the following:
- Small brown patches. Have you tried watering and fertilizer to no avail? It could actually be armyworms.
- Ragged blades of grass that look torn or chewed.
- Bare spots on your lawn.
- Areas of scratched disturbed lawn—animals like skunks, birds, raccoons, and possums will tear up your turf to get to the armyworms, which they consider a tasty treat.
How To Get Rid Of Armyworms
The key to controlling armyworms is spotting them early. After you have positively identified them, there are several environmentally friendly ways you can deal with them.
Attract Natural Predators
Several beneficial animals will help you win your war on armyworms.
- Birds are the natural predator for armyworms in any stage, including adult moths. Put up bird feeders or plant trees that attract a variety of birds to encourage them to pick the armyworms out of your lawn.
- Parasitic wasps may seem scary but are harmless to humans and feed on garden pests like armyworms.
- Ladybugs will devour not only armyworms but also aphids, another common lawn pest. They can be purchased in bulk to be unleashed on destructive garden pests.
- Lacewings are another common and harmless bug that will eat any armyworm eggs that they come across.
There’s a harmless bacteria called Bacillus thuringiensis, also referred to as BT. Available in both liquid and powdered forms, it will help with armyworms and cabbage loopers, cabbage worms, tomato hornworms, cutworms, and others. There is one catch: this treatment will not work on mature, egg-laying armyworms—it is only effective against their larvae.
You may not have heard of this last option, but it’s becoming increasingly popular. Nematodes are microscopic soil dwellers that feed on the larvae of many harmful and damaging pests, including armyworms, while they are still in the ground.
Hire a Professional Lawn and Pest Care Company
The best way to fully tackle armyworms is by calling a professional pest control company. Armyworm damage can easily be mistaken for other pests, like grubs, and the longer they are allowed to linger in your lawn, the worse the damage will get. The use of nematodes and predatory bugs can be messy, and insecticides are tricky. You need to make sure they are safe to use on plants and follow the correct time frame when applying them. Instead, you can take out all the guesswork and let the professionals handle it.
Let the experts at 4-EverGreen Lawn Care handle the hard work. With years of experience, our team of Jackson lawn care technicians has the training and equipment to get the job done correctly and safely. And we can help you restore any damage the armyworms may have caused. Get your lawn on the road to recovery!