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Battling Armyworms in Southern Lawns

by Gabby Hyman, All About Lawns Columnist

Armyworms nest in the thatch of turfgrass lawns. If you catch them early enough, they're a minor disturbance. But once they take hold--particularly in states across the southern rim of the nation--their numbers can explode. These sneaky pests hide beneath the surface of your lawn by day, emerging only at night to gnaw on blades of grass. If your grass looks brown or blighted, you should test to see if the worm army has set up summer quarters.

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So-called Fall Armyworms (Spodoptera frugipeda) are really caterpillars. They're typically one and a half inches long and have a distinctive series of white stripes on their heads, culminating in single line to form a "Y." Armyworms particularly delight on dining on St. Augustine grass and Bermuda grass, but also feed on cool-season lawns of fine fescue, ryegrass, bentgrass, and bluegrass.

Detecting and Treating Armyworms in Your Lawn

Since these caterpillars hide by day, you may be challenged in detecting them. Consider calling in a local lawn service for an assessment. You may find birds eating the worms in small sections of your lawn. One method for drawing the worms to the surface is to apply soapy water (between one half ounce and an ounce of dishwashing liquid to one gallon of water) to your lawn. The gray-green worms should come to the surface right away.

Examine the packaging of products at your local lawn service or home improvement store and choose an insecticide that fights caterpillars. Insecticides like dursban, permethrin carbaryl (Sevin), and deltamethrin have been used to effectively combat armyworms.

Treat any infestation at night or late afternoon when the worms are eating. It's a good idea to mow your lawn and wet the grass with soapy water to draw the bugs to the surface where they can be eradicated. Don't mow again for at least three days.

About the Author
Gabby Hyman has created online strategies and written content for Fortune 500 companies including eToys,, Siebel Systems, Microsoft Encarta, Avaya, and Nissan UK.

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