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Fall armyworms seem to be worse

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Fall armyworms seem to be worse

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Georgia farmers are never surprised to see fall armyworms munching on their precious corn, sorghum, and forage hay crops. They just hope for a low number of armyworms. In 2017, numbers were well above threshold treatment levels in much of the state. At the end of August, almost every pasture in Central and North Georgia had been sprayed at least once and for many of them, twice .

When it comes to pastures, the armyworms love most all forge grasses, Buntin said, including bahiagrass, bermudagrass, fescue and mixes. Armyworm caterpillars also prefer turfgrasses and feed above the ground, primarily eating foliage and tender stems. Adult fall armyworm moths are active at night. Females lay between 50 and several hundred eggs in masses that hatch in just a few days. The life cycle from egg to moth takes about 28 days in the warm weather of August and September.

“The larvae take several weeks to develop. When they are small, they do not eat much, but when they molt to the last stage, they can eat up an entire pasture in four to five days,” Buntin said. The moths actually arrive in Georgia in May but it takes “three to four generations” of proliferation of the pest to reach a point at which farmers have to apply control treatments. “By the last couple of generations, they have built up to damaging levels.

A Pike County hay producer, Jim Quick says that a large flock of blackbirds congregating in a field is a good indicator that the field is full of armyworms. The birds come in to eat the worms off the grass. Both Quick and Buntin agree that Georgia’s extremely dry weather conditions contributed to the explosive populations of armyworms in 2017.

“Fall armyworms are bad in South Georgia, but not as bad as in central and northern parts of the state,” Buntin said. “It’s bad (in South Georgia), but they have gotten more periods of rainfall,” he said. Georgia farmers battle armyworm outbreaks every three to four years, he said. The last bad outbreak was in 2013, but the outbreak this year “seems to be a lot worse than normal, and the dry weather has compounded it,” Buntin said.

For more information on armyworms please call the Jones County Extension Office at 478-986-3958. You can also view the full article above written by Sharon Downy at the following link.