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The Invasion of the Army Worms

Posted by okiedawn Z7 OK (My Page) on
Wed, Aug 27, 14 at 17:40

Other than the huge number of grasshoppers we've had all summer and the ever-present pests like SVBs and stink bugs, it hasn't been a very bad pest year here. Things might be about to change.

For a couple of weeks now, we've had a small army (oops, no pun intended) of moths lurking around the porch lights at night. They more or less came out of nowhere. One day there were none, and then the next day there were dozens and dozens around each light. They aggravate me by flying into the laundry room any time someone opens the exterior door there to let the dogs go in/out (to/from) the dog yard. Then I have to chase them down and swat them, because there's nothing like having moths come flying into the kitchen while I'm canning. I wouldn't want to have a moth end up in a jar of food. And, all along, I've had that "uh oh" feeling because those moths looked vaguely familiar.

So, over the last 3 or 4 days while harvesting from both the front and back gardens, I've found various caterpillars---but particularly beet army worms, yellow-striped army worms and fall army worms. I do not yet see them in huge numbers, but usually once you start seeing them, you then increasingly see more, more and more. I find them on top of the mulch and I find them lying on the soil. (Are they suntanning? I haven't figured out why they are lying there, curled up, on top of the soil.) I find them on plants. I kill every single one that I find so that it cannot reproduce and give us even more of them. The only damage I have found so far that I believe they caused is holes in the leaves of southern peas.

Still, even though I have been watching carefully so I can catch a sudden explosion in their population and spray if needed, I am not yet seeing them at a level that would concern me, so I haven't even mentioned them to anyone except Tim and Chris.

Last night, on our local news channel, which is CBS-affiliate KXII that covers the Texoma region on both sides of the river, including Ardmore, OK, Sherman, Denison and Gainesville, TX, and a large area around those cities, they had a news story that included video of a real army of army worms munching their way across a family's yard. Yikes! It was horrifying. I've never seen them here in numbers that high, but what it reminded me of was the spring we had all the trouble with cutworms, climbing cutworms and true army worms. I think that was 2010.

So, this is just sort of a heads-up to let you know we are seeing them here in south-central OK and across the river in adjacent portions of TX. So far, the heavier infestations seem to be east of I-35, and I haven't talked to anyone here in our neighborhood who has seen any yet, although I surely have seen them in small numbers. The way army worms work is that they usually start in southern areas and move northward, so if you further north and haven't seen any yet, they might be coming your way.

If you've never experienced army worms before, the key point to understand is that the name "army" is a clue, as they usually show up in very large numbers and travel, like an army, across an area, devouring almost everything in their path. They can wipe out a lawn in just a day or two. Should you have them show up suddenly in numbers like that, you need to treat the area with a product labeled for army worm control ASAP because if you wait a day or two, your entire lawn, for example, may be eaten right down to the soil. On last night's news story, the reporter said that one farm supply store (and I think she said it was in southern OK, not in TX) sold out all of their current stock of products that kill army worms in one single day. So, wherever that store was, obviously their area is being hit hard right now.

Other than that spring of whenever (I think it was 2010 which was a good garden year overall once the cutworms and army worms were under control), I only remember one other year when we have had army worms in significant numbers and I think that either was 2000 or 2001.

Any of you seeing these little beasts yet?

Dawn


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: The Invasion of the Army Worms

I picked my Purple Hulls a while ago and saw some damage, only noticed one worm and many grasshoppers. The damage was pretty heavy on the peas but I wont spray if I can keep from it. About 3 or 4 years ago we had Army worms so bad it looked like the ground was moving, If my memory is correct we mixed up 300 gal of spray to spray the worst areas. That was enough to save most of the pasture. We heard that there was about a 30 mile strip through here that had a lot of damage.


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RE: The Invasion of the Army Worms

  • Posted by dbarron Z6/7 (Oklahoma) (My Page) on
    Wed, Aug 27, 14 at 22:15

I never had to live through one...but I do remember one year (probably between 1995 and 1999) in which I remember traveling to Tulsa...and it seemed the entire countryside was encased in webbing and there wasn't a green leaf to be seen on the scrub trees.
I was horrified...esp when in 1999 I was moving there. But I never saw it again in my years up to 2012 there.


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RE: The Invasion of the Army Worms

One of the Tulsa TV stations reported on it today. I went out to see if I had moths at the porch light, didn't see any. Scary.


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RE: The Invasion of the Army Worms

Larry,

That sounds terrible. I cannot imagine a 30-mile strip with major damage. You'd think somebody or something (birds, perhaps) would have stopped them at some point before they traveled across such a huge area.

My pink eye purple hulls are about done, but that's the row where I have found the most army worms. A vole has eaten the roots of all the Mackey southern pea plants, one plant per night over the last month, with 2 plants left as of last evening, but I got a great harvest before that. I'm still getting a good harvest from the Big Red Ripper southern peas, and haven't had vole problems with them (yet) and haven't seen worms on them, but they are close to the fence and some of them have climbed it 6-8' up and the leaves that stick through the fence are being eaten by deer. Really, we've had southern peas for 6 or 8 weeks now and I have put up many pints of shelled peas in the freezer so if the army worms hit them now, it wouldn't be the end of the world. Then, we have about 8 or 10 random southern pea plants that popped up here and there in the front garden and I left those where they sprouted in case the voles got all the plants out in the back garden. I would hate for anything to get the tomato, pepper, winter squash, sweet potato, cucumber and melon plants that still are producing, but it has been an awesome garden year and, there again, the world wouldn't end if disaster struck because we've had plenty to eat fresh and have put up lots of home-grown food to eat over the next year.

I just don't want to walk outside and see the grass moving, only to realize it is army worms moving (unless they are attacking Johnson Grass in the pasture, in which case I'd roll out the red carpet). Usually when our grass looks like it is moving, it is grasshoppers and not army worms.

For me, the bigger concern would be that a major fall outbreak of these things would be the start of trouble with them next spring. Whenever we have had them in significant numbers in the fall, we have had lots of trouble with them in the following spring, and it is a lot worse to lose small sprouting plants in spring than big ones at the end of the main gardening season in the fall.

Every time it rained in June and July, I was outside afterward trying to pull or dig weeds, because the drought prior to that left the ground so hard that you couldn't pull or dig them otherwise, especially in the back garden which doesn't have highly improved soil yet like the front garden has. With every clump of grass I pulled or dug out in the back garden, I found an army worm or a cut worm. Of course, I destroyed them, but was shocked that there were so many because I hadn't had cutworm issues with the small seedlings in the back garden this year. Now I can see that the large number I found back there likely were a clue that we were going to have a bad outbreak of worms in the fall. I want to find them and kill them now so the problem won't carry over to spring. Because we have had such a horrific grasshopper population this year, our gardens have been full of song birds eating grasshoppers every day, and yet we still have far too many grasshoppers. I hope the song birds are eating the caterpillars when they see them.

dbarron, That does sound horrifying. We haven't had much trouble with caterpillars here at a level like that except in 2010 and I'd like to not have trouble with them this year either.

Amy, You know, we always have moths. We live in the country where there's no street lights so every porch light or yard security light draws tons of flying insects. Then, bats come and eat them. I don't mind that. What bothered me was the sudden appearance of so many moths and the fact that they resembled the moths we had in the 2010 cutworm/army worm outbreak. That's the only time in my garden life, which dates back to being a child in the 1960s and gardening with my dad, that we have had entire plants, and even entire rows of plants, repeatedly eaten right down to bare ground in the springtime.

The fact that a Tulsa TV station reported on it tells us, I guess, that it does seem to be a larger issue east of I-35 so far. Maybe those of us west of I-35 have been too dry for most of the year to support a large population of army worms. When we finally got good rainfall in June and July, I was so relieved, but August has turned back very dry again and our lovely green foliage is fading to brown again. What self-respecting army worm would chose to munch on dry brown grass if there is nice green stuff further east?

The yard they showed on the news story was an "after" video when the army worms had already eaten their way across the lawn, and there was no green grass. It was hard to even see stolons or runners. It looked like somebody went through the yard with a weedeater in their hand and cut off every bit of growth right at the ground. It was terrible.

I'm about to head out to do the morning harvest so I can then come back inside and do the daily processing of the harvest, and I'm hoping I won't see any new worms this morning. A lot of moths did not fly in the back door last night when I left the dogs go out and then come back in again, but that likely is because I left the porch light off and I turned off the laundry room light, hoping if there was no light, they wouldn't fly in. It seemed to work, but my spoiled dogs who already don't like going out in the dark (I don't blame them) were spooked without the porch light and set a world record for quickly running out into the dog yard, doing their thing and running in again. I was just relieved no moths came in with them.

I will keep watching for the army worms and other cats because it doesn't do any good to plant winter cover crops if the insects are just going to devour them as soon as they sprout.

Our whole insect population has been out of sync with their usual arrival times the last month or two, not that I'm complaining. I think getting abundant rain in June and July messed up their routine. We had very few stink bugs compared to most years, but they surely have arrived now. It is the same with leaf-footed bugs. Instead of seeing tons of them, I've only seen one here and one there, and have managed to kill most of the ones I've seen. Now, suddenly, this week....about 6 weeks later than what is typical here, we have leaf-footed bugs popping up all over. I've seen nymphs this week (on a healthy watermelon plant that continues to set new melons even though it already has produced a lot of them) and tried to kill all of them. Those were the first leaf-footed nymphs I've seen all year. We also have a huge population of wheel bugs. Love those wheel bugs! And, I hope I don't jinx my garden by saying this, but this is the first year in ages that we haven't seen a single blister beetle. Since I said that, I'll probably have them pop up out of nowhere this weekend.


Dawn


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RE: The Invasion of the Army Worms

Does bt work on them? Thinking about getting a fresh supply, just in case. I have seedlings ready to be hardened off. Maybe a preemptory bt spray before they go outside. Sometimes it feels like a loosing battle.


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RE: The Invasion of the Army Worms

Got an email from our arborist/spray treatment company just this morning, warning that the army worms are here and to call immediately for treatment if you see any. (OKC)


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RE: The Invasion of the Army Worms

Yes, Bt will kill them if they ingest plants sprayed with it. But, that's the tricky part....because seedlings are young and small, there always is a chance they'll manage to devour the seedlings before the Bt has time to kill them. Normally, any larvae that ingests Bt stops feeding almost immediately and then dies over the next day or two, but depending on the size of your seedlings, I think that the army worms could manage to devour them before the Bt kills the worms themselves.

Mia, They must be showing up everywhere because now we know for sure they've been seen in southcentral and southeastern OK, northeastern OK and central OK. I'm not even sure if SW OK has enough green plants in an average year to support an army worm population.


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RE: The Invasion of the Army Worms

Dawn

I hope the storms hovers over you. without damage, of course.


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RE: The Invasion of the Army Worms

There's storms, Bon? Coming my way? Woo hoo. Bring it on. I've been in the kitchen working on putting up the harvest for future meals and haven't looked at the radar. I did hear distant thunder about 90 minutes ago when I was locking up the chicken coops for the night. I told myself that I was imagining the thunder because usually in August, if we have rain, it is more imaginary than real. : )


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RE: The Invasion of the Army Worms

Yep. Headed your way. Doesn't look too mean, either. Might be enough for a few raindrops.


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RE: The Invasion of the Army Worms

We had folks visiting today from Mena AR. and they told us that the Army worms were showing up there.


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RE: The Invasion of the Army Worms

Army worms hit our Bermuda grass lawn last week here in Georgia. Turned half of the lawn brown almost overnight. I did not actually see the lawn but my daughter said it was creepy seeing the lawn undulate with the worms.


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RE: The Invasion of the Army Worms

It rained pretty much all night long from maybe 11:30 pm onward. We had lots of thunder, some fairly strong wind gusts and we had a moderate amount of lightning. Raindrops? There were some, but not tons of them at any given time. After it rained for 6 or 7 hours, we received about 0.75", so it clearly was light rain but any rain is good and we are happy to have it. After slowly clawing our way up from Extreme Drought to Severe Drought and finally to Moderate Drought (for the last 2 or 3 weeks), we slid back into Severe Drought this week so I am hoping for more rain so we don't end up back in Extreme Drought in the next few weeks.

Larry, It seems to me like they are fairly widespread this month, just based on anecdotal reports we're all seeing and hearing. When I was out harvesting yesterday, I kept my eyes open but didn't spot another single caterpillar and I did pay special attention to areas where I've been finding them and killing them over the past few weeks.

Yolos, I saw the news video of them eating a lawn in our region and it was hideous.....and I'd say creepy is a good word for it. I find it odd that they only destroyed half your lawn---usually they destroy an entire lawn, so you had some sort of good luck on your side, I guess.


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RE: The Invasion of the Army Worms

Dawn - the lawn is divided in half. In the front are woods and a driveway that divide the lawn in half in the front and in back is a brick wall and pool. We stopped them (I hope) before they could wrap around and come to the other side.


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RE: The Invasion of the Army Worms

We live outside of Tulsa, and I just checked on our lights. At this point there are no moths flying around our front or back lights or the street light in the front. My husband heard the news report yesterday, but I have not seen caterpillars yet.

I do remember the new report a few years ago, and remember spraying for the army worms. I simply do not remember the date. The name continues, and is interesting. I wonder why they don't change it since they really are not worms.

Sammy


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RE: The Invasion of the Army Worms

Lowes, Home Depot and Ace Hardware in Owasso did not have bt on the shelf. Dh brought some back from Worley's nursery. Lowes DID have some excellent clearance prices on pots, though, if you are in the market.


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RE: The Invasion of the Army Worms

Yolos, Yay! Glad y'all saved half the lawn anyhow. Half sure is better than none.

Sammy, That is a pet peeve of mine too. I try to use the name that pests most often are known by, but in my heart I want to refer to all caterpillars as caterpillars or as cats for short, not worms.

Amy, Thanks for the info. I'm not surprised to hear Bt is hard to find right now. We have other late summer/autumn pests in the caterpillar family too like tent caterpillars, aka webworms, that people spray for routinely, though I haven't seen any of those yet this year. Down here where I live, Bt is pretty easy to find in early spring and that's about it. The rest of the year it is hit or miss depending on what sort of pest problems folks are having.

I haven't found any more army worms this week, which is a relief. Finding as many as I did was making me nervous, but I killed those right off the back and haven't seen any more. Grasshoppers, though? They are taking over down here.

Dawn


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RE: The Invasion of the Army Worms

From SoTulsa/Bixby/Broken Arrow:

Oh they are nasty things! Plowed right over our more than a half acre yard in two days. My husband had worked so hard on this beautiful lawn, fighting the moles at every turn. The fescue had come in so beautifully last year that I couldn't let him cut it! It was even prettier this year. Sorry I didn't get a picture last week because it is GONE. Bermuda too.

Our weed service company was going to come out but Hubby said "No, I'll spray, I have a bottle of spray." Well that one and two more from Lowes got the front yard, but the back was so creepy crawly today I was squishing worms in my sandals when I went out to harvest my daylily seeds! Alas, right, everybody is sold out.

Does anyone know if they eat daylilies? I've decided they were probably the cause of the total demise of my cucumber vines growing on the fence which gave me a chance to be a giver about 25 times a week. :-/


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RE: The Invasion of the Army Worms

Fall army worms seem to prefer grasses, particularly fescue and bermuda. When they do major damage to fescue, you sometimes have to replant, but bermuda usually recovers on its own. However, they are opportunists who can and will eat pretty much any sort of plant they encounter, particularly when they don't have any grass handy. They often become a particularly serious problem on fertilized hay fields and pastures.

I don't know if they eat daylilies, but they might. Just keep an eye on your daylily plants and treat them as soon as you see damage.

With the cucumbers, there's all kinds of pests who eat the cucumber plants, including blister beetles, cucumber beetles, squash bugs, etc. If it were the army worms eating your cucumber vines, I would think that you would have noticed something was eating them....unless you were away on vacation or something and returned home to find your plants dead. If the plants died because something was eating their foliage, my top suspects would be blister beetles. I've had them strip entire plants in a matter of a few days. Cucumber beetles usually are a little more subtle---often the damage they do to mature cucumber plants is more from them infecting cucumber plants with diseases when they feed on them. If, on the other hand, the cucumber plants died with all their foliage more or less intact, I'd suspect disease or squash vine borers.


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RE: The Invasion of the Army Worms

We have grass in the dogs' yard, and the rest of our property is composed of dirt, stones, and flower beds. I have seen a few small caterpillars on the sidewalk as we walk the dogs. It doesn't look like there is anything I can do if we get an infestation.

Dawn, I am sorry about your grasshoppers. We only have had a few, but so many of the critters are really annoying.

Sammy


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RE: The Invasion of the Army Worms

Sammy, Thanks. The number of hoppers has creeped me out this year. When I walk through the grass on the side of the barn, all I hear is "plink, plink, plunk" as grasshoppers rise from the grass in unison to avoid being stepped on and hit the side of the metal barn. Usually they peak in July and then their numbers start dropping, but this summer, since we were very dry all spring and didn't have good rainfall until June and July, we went into summer with a huge population, and then every time it rained, we got a new hatch of hoppers a few days later so it still seems like we have more every week than we had the week before.

There's been a lot of cicadas at night---the whole loud "buzz" of all these living things at night is so loud that you can't even sleep with a window open on a cool night because they'll keep you awake. I saw a dead cicada lying in the driveway yesterday, so maybe their population is beginning to decline.

There are some veggies in the garden that the hoppers ate all the way down to the ground, and I sprayed one time this summer with a chemical pesticide, or I think the hoppers would have devoured the entire garden. That's the first time I've ever sprayed my entire garden with a chemical pesticide. It killed the grasshoppers, but killed lots of beneficial insects too, so I doubt I'll ever do it again. I hated everything about it and think that in future years when the hoppers are extremely bad, I'll let them devour the garden and I'll just take up needlepoint or something for the rest of the growing season.

We are at the point now where we desperately need for the blister beetles to show up in the next few weeks and devour tons of grasshopper eggs or we'll be in trouble in 2015. This is the first time I've begun actively rooting for the blister beetles to please show up here.

Dawn


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RE: The Invasion of the Army Worms

This is a bad Grasshopper year here also. I have brushed hogged a little for the last 3 days and it was terrible. It looked more like I was driving a speedboat and the hoppers were the wake. In the summer I never were any more clothes than I have to, I hated the grasshoppers hitting and landing on me.

Larry


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RE: The Invasion of the Army Worms

Larry, That sounds terrible. I do hate it when I'm walking along and a grasshopper lands on me...especially when they land on my hand and grab a finger and hang on!

Dawn


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