Armyworms in Oklahoma

vegetables in a garden

Written by KS

August 19, 2021

Every year the adult Spodoptera frugiperda migrates to Oklahoma (and other states) to lay eggs.  The female moths then lay 1000s of eggs. And stays sometimes till November, before returning to the Gulf Coast of Texas or Mexico.  I’m referring to a common pest we see here every end of summer, early fall.  Which is the fall armyworm.  Here in Oklahoma it’s become quite a nuisance, to say the least.  So I’ll discuss armyworms in Oklahoma, in particular, and how to get rid of them.

You should know that there are many types of armyworms.  But the one I want to cover today is the fall armyworm.  Additionally, all of the varieties of armyworm earned their names from their ravenous appetite and ability to destroy fields.  Which explains why they are such a problem.  Also, the fall armyworm is tropical, native to the Americas.  And as I said earlier, they migrate annually, starting in June.  But they aren’t just found in Oklahoma.  They can be found even as far north as Canada in warm months.

What Fall Armyworms in Oklahoma Look Like

fall army worm on gravel path in Oklahoma

The larvae, which look like caterpillars, (because they essentially are caterpillars) are green, brown, or black with white to yellow-ish lines from head to tail.  Also, they have a ‘Y’ pattern on their faces.  And when they are young, they’re quite small and don’t cause quite as much damage.  However when they’re full-grown, they can get to 1 1/2 inches long.

What Fall Armyworms in Oklahoma Do

dead grass

Well, I already mentioned that the adult females lay 1000s of eggs when they arrive around June each year.  Furthermore, because the fall armyworms stay till ~November some years, there are overlapping generations.  So that’s a lot of pests.  But what exactly do they do?  The larvae, when they first start out, don’t cause as much destruction.  But as they get older, they are more insatiable.

And it’s because of their voracious appetite that crops and lawns get destroyed.  Crops like corn, wheat, alfalfa, sorghum, broccoli, cauliflower, and wild grasses.  In addition, they totally denude the nutrients in lawns, making it appear as if there was a drought.  And they like bermudagrass and fescue.  Though this list is certainly not exhaustive.

How to Know if You Have Fall Armyworms

1 gallon of water and dish soap

Not sure if you have an infestation?  I’ll tell you how you can know for sure.  If you walk out to your mailbox and notice the caterpillars, that I described, on the sidewalk or your driveway, then you probably have an infestation.  Now I’m not talking about just finding one or two.  I mean if you have 7-10 or more.  But I think you’ll know.  You’ll. Just. Know.  Because it’s definitely a topic right now.  A lot of pest control agencies are backed up due to fall armyworms.  And yes, this is something we see every year.  But the rain we’ve been having certainly creates more of an ideal environment for them, allowing more of the larvae to survive.

Now there’s another way you can figure out if you have an infestation.  And it’s by doing a little test.  Just mix an ounce of dishwasher detergent with a gallon of water.  And then pour that mixture onto a square yard of your lawn.  The soap acts as an irritant, and the armyworms will come to the surface.  So if you see 5-10 armyworms in that area, immediately after performing the test, then you should definitely treat your lawn.

How to Get Rid of Fall Armyworms in Oklahoma

Bt natural pest control

If you have indeed verified that you have fall armyworms, then you can always call pest control to take care of the issue for you.  But they may be booked out.  And you might not be able to have your yard treated until the damage has already been done.  However that doesn’t mean there aren’t alternatives.  You could always spray or treat your yard and garden yourself, by going to your local gardening store or home improvement store.  They will know the best options.

And there are safe alternatives that work as well as the chemical kinds.  Hannah, from Oklahoma’s own Marcum’s, confirmed that on Saturday, August 14 there were at least 5 people who came in asking her what was recommended to get rid of armyworms.  Marcum’s typically suggests Bt, which is Bacillus thuringiensis. Also, it’s available as a liquid or a powder.  But you’re limited on when it can be applied, because sunlight will degrade its effectiveness.

As always, Daystar Handyman is here to help!  Just give us a call.

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