Alert: Armyworms Are Invading Birmingham Lawns

We can thank the abundance of rain for this invasion.

Not to be alarmist, but have you checked on your lawn lately? If it's summer in the South, that means that patch of grass might be in jeopardy of being invaded by army worms.

Armyworms are a summertime and fall scourge of lawn lovers, unfortunately, as the summer heats up and the plants dry up. According to local news channel WTVM 13, the rain in summer kills off the insects that can keep an armyworm invasion at bay—an insect situation that creates "the perfect environment" for armyworms.

If you've been lucky enough to avoid these little pests so far, armyworms are the caterpillar-like larvae of a small moth that is native to the South. Armyworms' preferred food is agricultural crops, such as corn, soybeans, cotton, peanuts, and sorghum. When those dry up or they eat their way through them like they are starring in their own version of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, the little critters head for greener pastures, specifically, your lawn.

They earned their militaristic name because they are determined and hungry bugs who march across a lawn like an army platoon, eating as they go and leaving devastation in their wake. How does an army of bugs come to be? Well, according to our Grumpy Gardener: "Female moths will lay up to 2,000 tiny eggs right on the grass blades." Those thousands of eggs hatch a few days later producing thousands of tiny green caterpillars with tiny black heads and voracious appetites. They march along eating your perfectly manicured lawn (or even your lazy lawn) and grow and change color as they go. "If you see this gobbling your grass, your lawn is in trouble," our Grumpy Gardener writes.

If you spot a few scouts or catch the caterpillars while they are still small (a half-inch long or smaller), spraying the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) on your lawn can halt their forward march. The spray is totally natural and only kills caterpillars. Unfortunately, it won't work on the full-sized bugs. For that problem, the Grumpy Gardener recommends picking up a garden insecticide designed to demolish armyworms and spraying the lawn down—or learning to love not having a lawn at all.

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