Insect Pests of Hayfields and Pastures
Mississippi hayfields and pastures are subject to attack by relatively few insect pests, but, some of these pests can cause significant economic loss when they occur in high numbers and are not properly controlled. Fall armyworms can be especially damaging to bermudagrass hayfields and can destroy entire cuttings of hay if not detected and controlled in time. Fire ants are present in every hayfield and pasture in the state, with mound densities ranging from 50 to around 200 mounds per acre. Although their impact on grass production is questionable, fire ants can interfere with hay harvest, their mounds can damage mowers and other equipment, and their stings are painful to both humans and animals.
A recently established non-native insect pest, the bermudagrass stem maggot poses a new threat to bermudagrass hayfields because heavy stem maggot infestations reduce hay production by interfering with stem growth, especially in mid to late season cuttings. Other less common insect pests include: crickets, which sometimes destroy stands of newly planted winter grazing; mole crickets, which sometimes damage pastures and winter grazing in the southern part of the state; white grubs, which are occasional pests in pastures that have been heavily fertilized with poultry litter; and two-lined spittlebugs, which sometimes damage bermudagrass hayfields.
Following last year’s significant fall armyworm outbreak, hay producers should be careful not to overlook another important pest -- the Bermudagrass stem maggot -- while watching for armyworms. While farm armyworms attack hay fields, home lawns, golf courses and more, the non-native Bermudagrass stem maggot is primarily a pest of hay fields.
Lawns, pastures and even winter food plots are at risk as an insect army advances across much of the state in higher than normal numbers. Blake Layton, entomologist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said fall armyworms are the most damaging insect pests of bermudagrass hayfields and pastures
Every year, lawns and pastures become targets for late-summer grass-eating caterpillars, making it important to watch for the usual suspects and some culprits that are less common.