Hurricane Barry may have drenched America's agricultural heartland with life-giving water but all that moisture is also fueling a destructive wave of ravenous Fall Armyworms.
Armyworms aren't actually worms – they're the larvae (aka caterpillars) of the Fall Armyworm moth, one of several species of armyworm that emerge from eggs laid in late summer or early autumn. The name “armyworm” was derived from both the caterpillars' olive green, black and brown stripes, and their habit of moving through vegetation and/or crops en masse, consuming every edible part of every plant they encounter.
Fall Armyworms do best – and do their worst – in cool and moist conditions, exactly the type of conditions brought about by the passage of Hurricane (and later Tropical Storm) Barry. “I've seen a few reports about armyworms,” stated Dr. Vanessa Corriher-Olson, an AgriLife Extension forage specialist in Overton, Texas, “and this expected rain could mean an explosion in their populations.”
Indeed, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agents have already reported armyworm activity in hay fields and pastures at various locations in East and Central Texas. Farmers familiar with past Fall Armyworm plagues know that quick action is the only way to defeat this many-legged army. Armyworm moths can lay up to 2,000 eggs during their brief lifetimes, almost all of which will hatch within two to three days after being laid.
“Armyworms can devastate grazing and forage production pastures quickly," added Corriher-Olson, “so producers need to be mindful to watch their pastures for the pest. It is shaping up to be a good hay production year following such a poor season, and it would be a shame to lose a cutting or valuable grazing to armyworms.” (via PhysOrg, images via uacescomm)