Armyworms are a strange pest. The moths responsible for mobilizing the ‘army’ don’t overwinter in the North, just down in milder climes, where the armies of caterpillars are major pests of turfgrass. There are several generations a year down South, where infestations can occur on such a massive scale, reports our turf grass specialist Dr. Nick Christians of Iowa State University, “that you’ll see them reported on the evening news. The lawns appear to actually be moving, and severe outbreaks can cover a hundred mile stretch.”
They feed as they march, eating the tops of grass blades, and can be very damaging—especially down South, where the warm-season grasses that predominate get a much shorter cut than our Northern cool-season grasses. “The lawn looks severely burnt and drought stressed after they’ve passed over it,” explains Nick. If the weather is decent and rains come, the grass can recover, he continues, because—unlike lawn grubs—they don’t damage the root system. “But if armyworms feed on a lawn in the middle of a hot and dry stretch, they can destroy large sections.”
So how do these Southern menaces appear in the North? Our homeowner lives in the ‘somewhat Southern’ Washington DC region, but armyworms have been reported as far North as Massachusetts! “Wind”, explains Nick. “You’ll have the first generation of moths in the air somewhere down South, a big storm whips up around them and they can be blown incredible distances. The next thing you know there’s a report of a ‘moving lawn’ in New Jersey.” And while a marching army can cover vast distances back home, these Oz-borne invasions tend to be highly localized.
Let me just tell you....when I received a phone call from my friend and fellow blogger, Kae...with this news, I was stunned!! Kae's son was in charge of lawn duty while we were gone. Imagine THEIR surprise when they came over and saw this INVASION!!! I would have been totally creeped out!!! And she was...
By the time we arrived home...nearly three weeks later...the worms and their "remains" were all gone...thankfully!! However, upon closer inspection, we discovered while watering what dead grass we had left...that there are hundreds of MOTHS laying eggs underneath the dead grass. YIKES!!! So, further research was done and we have learned that these types of army worms usually come in waves...and the second wave should be coming within the next couple of weeks. OH JOY. Not.
We have been trying to stomp out the moths that are out there, but it appears that they have laid their eggs under the soil already.
Will keep you posted!!