HARRISON, Ark. – An “agriculture alert” has been issued for residents in Boone County, Arkansas.
At least eight cases of fall armyworms have been reported across the county, insects that can be extremely destructive to pastures and hay crops.
“I was working over here last weekend and trying to figure out when to cut hay because of the rain,” says Boone County farmer, Brian Johnson, “ and then noticed the Bermuda was practically gone.”
Johnson says before the fall armyworms moved in, the Bermuda on his 30-acre plot of land was nearly knee-high.
Part of the field still remains, but it’s estimated he lost a ton of hay per acre, resulting in more than a two-thousand dollar loss.
“There were some last year I noticed,” he says, “but nothing compared to what they are this year.”
“If you’ve ever planted a garden and you go out there one morning and all your plants are cut off at ground level, that’s the cut worm,” says Boone County Extension agent, Mike McClintock. “It’s similar to this worm here.”
McClintock says armyworms move up from Texas and Oklahoma during the fall. The moths lay eggs, the eggs hatch, the caterpillars eat, and the cycle starts over again in a couple of weeks.
“They tend to be worse on years like this when we have that — you know we had that three-day rain event here– and it was all training up from the south,” McClintock says.
The best way to break the cycle is with insecticides, even then it may take multiple sprayings. It’s an option both farmers and non-farmers need to be aware of.
“The more manicured your lawn is, and if you have Bermuda grass or Zoysia-type grass — summer grasses that they like — they can devastate your lawn,” he says.
It also helps to catch the insects early. McClintock suggests checking pastures early of a morning and late of an evening, every two days –- picking out 10 random locations to inspect.
“Scout the fields and be observant,” says Johnson, “because it’s almost overnight that they can destroy your hay.”
McClintock says both conventional and organic insecticides will work, however, he says time is often of the essence and conventional means tend to work faster.
For more information about fall armyworms and eradication methods click here.