“What is this and how do I get rid of it?” asks this reader, who has seemingly found a large cluster of worm-like organisms. The creatures are small and gray, with bulbous black heads, and our reader asks if she needs to spray the creatures with bug spray.
Let us begin by first answering our reader’s questions directly. These are newly-hatched armyworms, and you get rid of them by manually moving them outside, not with bug spray. Bug spray will effectively do nothing, as armyworms have shown to be quite resistant to most insecticides used against them. We could wrap it up at that — problem solved, article finished — but we should probably expand on our answers a little more.
Armyworms are the larval form of the armyworm moth. Just as they hatch in a group, they travel as one too. Fun fact: a group of caterpillars is an armyworm, hence the name. These cute critters will eventually grow to one-to-two inches long and will be gray, brown or olive green in color, with speckles of darker dots all over their bodies. Fortunately for our reader, armyworms are completely harmless to humans, their pets and even their plants. However, they are incredibly destructive in the garden, and especially on farms. They are, quite literally, the bane of many plantations’ existence. As their armies march into a crop farm, they cut swaths through the plants, chewing and eating through countless stalks and leaves of a plethora of plant species.
Farmers are especially not fond of armyworms because they are also so difficult to get rid of once they have infested one’s crops. Insecticides and other chemical agents have proven to be quite useless against armyworms, depending on the insecticides, region and species of armyworm. The most common and destructive species of arymworm is the fall armyworm. They are infamous among farmers all over the world, as the fall armyworm (commonly referred to as FAW) has been spreading internationally due to trading. Plus, once a fall armyworm has arrived in a new region, it is there to stay. As our reader’s photograph demonstrates, eggs are laid in such high quantities that armyworms would be impossible to completely eradicate from a given country, though not from a home.
All our reader needs to do to get rid of the armyworms is to safely and humanely move the cluster of worms outside (perhaps to a nearby woods). Armyworms are not attracted to urban homes for any reasons of infestation, and so they will not come back once moved outside. It is more likely that an armyworm moth laid her eggs in our reader’s home because it would provide shelter for her eggs. Of course, we do not know if our reader actually does live on a farm, and in that case, the situation would be different.
To conclude, the creatures our reader found are armyworm larvae. These newly-hatched, baby caterpillars are not dangerous to our reader and her home, despite being such a significant threat to the livelihoods of farmers. We are certain that if our reader just moves the caterpillars outside, she will no longer have to worry about these coming back. She is especially lucky to have found them at this stage, where they are newly-hatched and all clustered together in one spot; think if they had all been scattered around her home!