Armyworms are minor pests that infest fruit trees and vegetable crops such as corn. Armyworms will also infest cotton, peanut, and alfalfa sprout crops. These pests are usually active at night, so sightings are rare. Armyworms can become a problem in fruit trees and orchards that are covered in leaves and overgrowth. Because overgrowth keeps the area dark, it may encourage early worm development. You can tell if you have an infestation by the condition of the leaves and fruit on trees. The surface of the fruit will be eaten away and foliage will appear tattered or stripped.
Armyworms can occur in large numbers in late districts. They can occur without warning and they can do major damage to crops in a short period of time. The armyworm climbs into trees in the spring when buds are developing. They will destroy all or part of the blossom clusters and newer leaves. Although this is not a regular occurrence, later generations of armyworms will attack fruit and foliage all the way up to harvest.
The armyworm lives mostly in the southern United States, South America, some islands of the West Indies, and the tropics of Central America. The armyworm can only survive the winter in the tropics and the warm Gulf areas of the U.S. The adult armyworm migrates each year to the northeastern part of the United States between early-late July.
The armyworm is about 1-1/2 inches long when it is full grown. They are can range in color from light tan or green to black. The armyworm has a prominent inverted Y on the front of its head. The adult moth has a wingspan of about 1-1/2 inches and the hind wings are grayish white. The first pair are dark gray mottled with lighter and darker patches. The adult moth also has a white spot near its extreme tips. Much like its larvae, the moth is mainly active at night.
The best way to prevent major infestations is by controlling ground vegetation and overgrowth. To determine if you have an armyworm problem check for stripped foliage or buds. Begin looking for cutworms at night to see if they are responsible for the damage. In general, serious damage occurs only in areas with overgrown ground covers.
Armyworms also have natural predators, so in many cases, you won’t have to do anything to control populations. Insecticides should be a last resort. It is important to keep in mind that a population level of more than 15 percent of damaged plants in the plants early stages is cause for action.
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