No one likes to see Armyworms in OKC!
The fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) is a species in the order of Lepidoptera and is the larval life stage of a fall armyworm moth. The term “armyworm” can refer to several species, often describing the large-scale invasive behavior of the species’ larval stage. It is regarded as a pest and can damage and destroy a wide variety of crops, which causes large economic damage. Its scientific name derives from frugiperda, which is Latin for lost fruit, named because of the species’ ability to destroy crops. Because of its propensity for destruction, the fall armyworm’s habits and possibilities for crop protection have been studied in depth. It is also a notable case for studying sympatric speciation, as it appears to be diverging into two species currently. Another remarkable trait of the larva is that they practice cannibalism.
The fall armyworm is active at a different time of year than the true armyworm, another species in the order Lepidoptera and family Noctuidae, but of the genus Mythimna. Outbreaks of the true armyworm usually occur during the early part of the summer; the fall armyworm does most damage in the late summer in the southern part of the United States, and early fall in the northern regions.
Because of their food preferences, fall armyworm larvae can wreak havoc on a wide range of crops. The first historical account of the fall armyworm’s destruction was in 1797 in Georgia. Destruction can happen almost over night, because the first stages of a caterpillar’s life require very little food, and the later stages require about 50 times more. Because of this rapid change in food consumption, the presence of larva will not be noticed until they have destroyed almost everything in as little as a night. Some examples of targeted crops include cotton, tobacco, sweet corn, rice, peanuts, and even fruits such as apples, oranges, and many more. The list of possible food sources for the worms is extensive, so crop damage is wide-ranging. It is estimated that almost 40% of those species that armyworms target are economically important. Because the larva eat so much of the plant, they are very detrimental to crop survival and yield. In corn, larvae will even burrow into the corn ear to eat the kernels.
Typically armyworms will gravitate to larger food sources like crops, but they will go anywhere to find food. That means your backyard garden is at risk if you see these guys around. The larva can eat through an entire garden overnight since they lay about 1,500 eggs at a time! If you see these guys around be sure to give us a call!