As the dry conditions continue over much of the state, homeowners are watering their lawns and landscape plantings to keep them healthy. Insects also are aware of where the moisture is and will concentrate in those areas to lay their eggs.
Fall armyworm adult moths have been busy at night depositing their egg masses of about 150 eggs, then flying a few feet to deposit another mass until they lay as many as 1,000 eggs. In a few days these eggs hatch into tiny caterpillars that feed continuously on the turf leaf blades. These tiny larvae feed as a group and often go unnoticed by the homeowner until they increase in size and then in almost one night can simply devour a lawn. Bermudagrass lawns are most susceptible, but centipede and St. Augustine lawns have been known to be rare targets.
Regular lawn inspections will prevent severe fall armyworm damage. At least once a week during the remainder of the summer randomly select locations in the lawn to brush the grass back and forth with your hand, then part the grass down to the soil line and look for coiled light-tan or green to nearly black caterpillars. They also may have a distinct inverted y marking on their forehead.
Control is not too difficult if the lawn is treated with an approved insecticide such as carbaryl, cyfluthrin, permethrin or lambda-cyhalothrin when the larvae are small. Early detection and control will also prevent any appreciable damage to the lawn.
Published July 17, 2006
Dr. Wayne Wells is an Extension Professor and Turfgrass Specialist. His mailing address is Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, Mail Stop 9555, Mississippi State, MS 39762. firstname.lastname@example.org