Fall armyworms are attacking lawns in the Southeast at an unprecedented level ― and it’s one of the worst invasions scientists have seen in decades.
The amount of tropical storms and hurricanes this year may have played a massive role in the resurgence of the pesky critters, University of Georgia entomologist Dr. Shimat Joseph told 11 Alive News.
“The more rain, the more lush green, the more food available to them ― and they are crazy with that,” Joseph told the outlet.
Armyworms aren’t actually worms, Scott Stewart, professor of entomology at the University of Tennessee, wrote in the Conversation. They are striped caterpillars and “the larvae of an ordinary and benign brown moth.”
Their life cycle from larvae to moth isn’t very long ― about 30 days in the summer and 60 days in the spring and fall, Stewart said. Adult moths live for nearly two weeks and lay up to 2,000 eggs in clusters of 100 to 200 underneath leaves.
The moths aren’t turning your lawns brown, sometimes in less than 48 hours, according to Stewart. It’s the larvae. By the time they’ve reached full size so has their ravenous appetite.
This year’s spring weather created especially abundant vegetation for armyworms to feast on, the Greenville Journal reported. The hot and dry summer led to the critters reproducing at an alarming rate and spreading as far as Michigan.
“We have storms every year, but we don’t have the population like we had this year,” JC Chong, professor of plant and environmental sciences at Clemson University, told the outlet.
Chong said armyworms will eat anything, whether it’s ornamental turf or crops like corn and sorghum, the Greenville Journal reported.
The good news: Armyworms can’t survive the winter months.
“Their numbers should start to dwindle before Thanksgiving,” Joseph told 11 Alive News.