Experts: Armyworms could cause issues for Oklahoma farmers – not just homeowners

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Armyworm eating blades of grass

STILLWATER, Okla. (KFOR) – For weeks, homeowners across Oklahoma have been dealing with an invasion of sorts.

Last month, the President of Acenitec Pest Control told KFOR more than 200 residents had already called about armyworm invasions in their yards.

“It basically defoliates the grass. They will chew it down all the way to the crown,” said Gary Roberts, with Acenitec Pest Control.

The bugs come out during certain times of the year and move up north from the southern regions of Texas.

While it has become a problem for some homeowners who want green grass, experts at Oklahoma State University say the pests could be even more of a problem for farmers across the Sooner State.

Tom Royer, OSU professor and Extension Entomologist for Small Grains and Row Crops, told KFOR that armyworms are affecting crops like corn, late-planted sorghum, grass pastures, and wheat.

“It is a problem that some farmers are facing, and could potentially be even more of a problem,” he said in an email to KFOR.

Royer says the worms can damage the ear of the corn and allow secondary fungus diseases to attack the plant, along with damaging wheat seedlings and sorghum plants in the vegetative state.

He also warns that armyworms can severely damage grass pastures, which may limit some farmers’ abilities to bail hay for the winter.

“We will probably have continued ‘flushes’ of fall armyworms through fall. Each generation takes about 30 days to cycle from egg to adult. This is one of the largest infestations of fall armyworms I have seen in a long time,” Royer said.

Fortunately, there are some things farmers can do to protect their crops from these creepy crawlers.

“The most important thing that a producer should do is to determine if there is an actual need to spray is scout their fields. We have suggested thresholds for fall armyworms. It is very important to scout for small caterpillars in wheat and apply an insecticide before they cause significant damage,” Royer said.

Experts stress that fall army worms will stick around until Oklahoma gets a strong freeze where the temperature dips below 24 degrees. However, they say earlier frosts will slow them down and could slow down their life cycle.

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