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Armyworms are Invading Texas Pastures, Fields, and Lawns

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First, it was crickets, but now north Texas is experiencing an invasion of caterpillars known as fall armyworms. No, these aren’t a part of the seven plagues. It’s nature following its course and resulting in swarms of these things in yards and fields, chewing crops and grass. In the end, it’s them against homeowners and farmers, many of whom are working to protect their properties.

Although these creatures are nothing new to north Texas, it appears their population has exploded this year, and entomologists say we may have the late summer rains to thank for that. Infestations can continue into cooler fall and winter temperatures, but the destructive larval stage is reported to last approximately two weeks. For homeowners, once the damage is visible, in many cases it’s too late to stop such an infestation. However, consumer insecticides have been known to work against the armyworms if they start climbing your walls or start setting their sights on your patio.

Armyworms are Invading Texas Pastures, Fields, and Lawns

Photo: Facebook/Nueces County Agriculture – Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Farmers appear to be going head-to-head with their biggest risk where these caterpillars are concerned. Texas A&M experts have warned armyworms in swarms such as this can damage whole pastures or fields in a matter of days. What constitutes a swarm? The same experts have advised that infestations of more than two to three of these caterpillars in each square foot could be enough to justify the use of insecticide for the protection of crops. Grass, however, (like a backyard) will return on its own following the retreat of the armyworms to transition into moths. Oddly enough, these caterpillars have been identified as picky eaters by an AgriLife Extension forage specialist. They’re said to prefer high-quality, fertilized food which is generally found on fields that are maintained for pasture or for hay production. Their palates tend to lean toward corn, sorghum, wheat, Bermuda grass, ryegrass and a number of other crops which are prevalent in north Texas and throughout central Texas.