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Prepare for Attack…The Army is here!

July 9, 2010

army-worm-collage3Put away your shotguns & machetes, step out of the bomb shelter. This army is not wearing fatigues or carrying machine guns, they are however lethal when they launch an attack on your lawn.

What army is invading Florida you ask?  Army worms!

Many pests that attack turf grass are predictable like chinch bugs, mole crickets and crabgrass. We see these pests often and know what to expect. Other pests that are less predictable can be the biggest challenge. Army worms fall into this category.

Army worms get their name because they often travel in groups. They attack by chewing on the leaf blades of grass decimating large areas at a time. Their meals of preference are St. Augustine & Burmuda Grass. An infestation of army worms can destroy a lawn in days.

“We’re receiving an influx of calls from homeowner’s in Orlando and throughout Central Florida who have army worms in their lawns.  If treated right away, we stop the army worms before they cause much destruction.  If left untreated, the result can be devastating and end with a lawn needing a full sod replacement.  A proactive approach is the best defense, treating the lawn to protect it from army worms to begin with. –Steve Okros, Entomologist.

Some signs to look for are areas of grass that look like they have been mowed too short or you may even see brown patches. When an infestation is extreme, the lawn can even appear as though it is moving. You may also see birds flocking to the lawn to feast on the army worms. Like many pests, often times when you see the signs, extensive damage has already been done.

What do these fierce soldiers look like? Army worms are hairless caterpillars. They can range in color from tan to olive green with yellow stripes running down the body. Dark circles are present on the midsection & a recognizable inverted yellow or white Y is present on the head.

Army worms have 3 life cycles: Female moths lay eggs in clusters of 50-150 laying up to 2,000 eggs in her lifespan. The female moth covers the egg mass with hair which looks like felt. The eggs hatch into caterpillars. Fully grown army worms are approx. 1.5 inches long. Grown army worms burrow themselves into the soil. After about two weeks, they emerge as moths. Then the lifecycle repeats itself.

You can’t assume that spraying one application of insecticides will alleviate army worms. They have multiple generations and often times the first generation is eliminated and the second is not. Another rising problem in Florida is that army worms becoming resistant to insecticides.

Think you may have army worms? While it is always best to have a licensed pest control professional perform an inspection, there is a simple test you can do on your own… a soapy water flush. Mix a bucket of water with 2 tablespoons of dishwashing detergent. Pour the mixture over 1 square yard of


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