STILLWATER, Okla. (KFOR) – An Oklahoma State University entomology professor said the armyworm infestation could impact more than just Oklahoma lawns, it could also impact farmers in the Sooner State.
“It’s one of the worst infestations I’ve seen. I’ve been here 24 years,” said Professor Tom Royer. “There’s literally farmers that say, ‘Ah, I went for a weekend to do something, came back to my pasture and it’s gone!’ And that’s literally because those caterpillars are big enough they can take that much out of it.”
Royer said armyworms are hitting the Sooner State and thriving in the summer heat. He said the worms have distinctive markings, as pictured.
“If you look at their face, they have an inverted ‘Y’. It kind of gives them away,” said the professor.
Royer said the insects can impact corn, late-planted sorghum, grass pastures and, right now, wheat.
“Wheat farmers are having to deal with a double whammy,” he said.
Royer said farmers are planting early so the wheat will germinate and start producing lush growth, so their cattle can feed on it during the winter time. He said this will help ensure the livestock can beef up in size.
“If it kills their stem, they’ll have to re-plant and they won’t have the ability to put cattle out later in the year, because there won’t be enough forage build up for the cattle to feed on,” said Royer. “Then they can’t put on the weight that they need.”
Royer is pushing wheat farmers to scout their fields for early signs of infestation.
“They’ll take a blade of wheat and scrape the tissue off so that you can almost see through it, but there’s still a little tissue in there. We call that window paining,” said the professor.
“You need to have a game plan ready to take care of the worms,” said Tony Kodesh, a 4th generation crop farmer. “Fortunately, they’re fairly easy to control. It doesn’t take a lethal insecticide.”
Kodesh said he uses a professional crop scout for all of his many fields and uses an insecticide with the same ingredients as Tempo, a commonly used bug killer.
“We hope the armyworms don’t become resistant to our products we use to control them now,” he said. “But, over the years they could.”
The crop producer said this year most of his fields were spared others had to be sprayed twice.
“There was a time when we sprayed and like two weeks later we had to spray again,” said Kodesh.
Kodesh said the best thing a farmer can do is treat the crops like the investment they are.
“You need to treat your crop like you would your pet take care of it everyday,” he said.
Professor Royer said Oklahoma will likely see two more generations of armyworm because it takes about 30-days for them to become adults. However, he said they’ll die off when we have our first killer frost when the temperature is about 24-degrees Fahrenheit.