Armyworms Invading Oklahoma Lawns And Pastures

Thursday, September 15th 2016, 8:49 pm
By: Tess Maune

There’s an army on the march, and it’s got your yard in its sights.

Armyworms are here earlier and more aggressively than year's past, according to the Oklahoma State University’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. Experts say whether you live urban or rural - if you have a lawn you could become a victim of the tiny pests.

They're no bigger than a safety pin, but they can chew through your yard before you even realize they're there.

“Bermuda turf grass, fescue turf grass,” Nutri-Green route manager Ray Phillips said. “These things can chew it down to almost nothing.”

“They're here. They definitely are here,” Phillips said while inspecting a Broken Arrow yard.

Phillips has been busy the past few weeks spraying yards all over the metro.

“Whenever we get a phone call into the office of somebody saying they possibly have armyworms in the lawn, we treat it as, basically an emergency,” he said. “We gotta get there fast.”

Armyworms come from eggs laid by migrating moths each summer and fall. Each moth can lay 2,000 eggs, building the population while destroying yards.

Fall armyworms infesting some Oklahoma lawns

“The key to catching them is catching them early. If you can catch them early, then you can get control of it before they demolish the yard,” Phillips said.

The good news is the grass doesn't die and will come back - it just might take over-seeding next year to get it looking good again.

But armyworms aren’t just invading lawns, they’re taking out entire crops too.

“If you see something green sticking up in this field, there's probably an armyworm on it,” Oklahoma wildlife biologist Matt Mattioda said.

Armyworms destroyed one of Mattioda’s four-acre wheat fields in no more than two days, and they’re not giving any signs of stopping.

Fall armyworms making an early appearance in some Oklahoma pastures

“Depending on the size of the field, [you could have] thousands to tens of thousands [of armyworms],” Mattioda said.

Agriculture experts say to check your yards or pastures now and continue to do so regularly.

“The feeding activity by flocks of birds can serve as a sign that armyworms are present,” Eric Rebek, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension entomologist, said. “Fall armyworms can be detected through close examination of the turf.”

If your lawn looks drought-stressed despite getting plenty of water, that could be another sign you’ve been invaded.

Insecticides labeled for the control of fall armyworm generally provide excellent results, according to OSU’s extension office.

“If choosing between granular and liquid applications, keep in mind that granular products are a bit slower acting and require watering for activation,” Rebek said.

And whatever product you chose, always read the label to make sure you’re using it safely and effectively.