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Fall Armyworms

“That field looked fine when I drove by it Wednesday afternoon, but when I came back to cut it on Saturday it was nothing but stems!”

Fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda, is the most damaging insect pest of bermudagrass hayfields. These caterpillars can destroy an entire cutting of hay in just a couple of days. The reason for this rapid crop loss is that the caterpillars do 80 to 90% of their feeding in the last two to three days of their life. During the summer months fall armyworms remain in the caterpillar stage for around 10 to 14 days, but young caterpillars eat very little, and their damage is easy to overlook.

By the time they are ¾ to 1 inch long fall armyworm caterpillars are leaf-eating machines that rapidly consume large amounts of leaf area. Multiply the leaf consumption of a single caterpillar by the hundreds of thousands of caterpillars per acre that occur during heavy outbreaks, and it is easy to understand how fall armyworms can cause such rapid defoliation. This is why experienced cattlemen and hay producers learn to scout their fields every two to three days during periods when fall armyworms are a threat and to have their spray equipment ready to go.

See Extension Publication 2717, Fall Armyworms in Hayfields and Pastures for fall armyworm treatment recommendations and information on fall armyworm biology and how to best protect bermudagrass hayfields from this damaging pest.

Contact

Dr. Blake Layton, Extension Entomology Specialist
Department of Entomology, Mississippi State University
Phone: (662) 325-2085
Email: blayton@entomology.msstate.edu

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News

A man wearing a hat holds a pocketknife in his hand as he looks closely at a tree trunk.
Filed Under: Insects-Crop Pests, Insects-Pests, Forest Pests April 16, 2019

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Mississippi is one of just two states east of the Mississippi River not infested with emerald ash borers, and landscapes need everyone’s help to keep it that way.

Blake Layton, Mississippi State University Extension Service entomologist, said the emerald ash borer -- or EAB -- is an invasive, nonnative pest that has killed hundreds of millions of ash trees in the eastern U.S. Fairly expensive, annual treatments can protect high-value landscape trees, but they have to be applied preventatively.

Filed Under: Insects-Crop Pests, Soybeans, Plant Diseases and Nematode Diagnostic Services December 12, 2018

The Mississippi State University Extension Service will offer free testing for a significant crop pest through Aug. 30, 2019.

Hundreds of reddish-brown heads of grain sorghum rise above green stalks in a field.
Filed Under: Grains, Insects-Crop Pests September 28, 2018

Grain sorghum has never been a major agricultural commodity in Mississippi, but it has seen better days: For two years in a row, acreage of the crop has been less than one-tenth of its annual average.

A paper wasp on a multi-cell nest.
Filed Under: Insects-Crop Pests, Insects-Forage Pests, Fire Ants, Household Insects, Insect Identification, Termites, Insects-Home Lawns, Insects-Pests July 31, 2018

Mississippi has an abundance of bugs, especially in the warmer months. We are all familiar with mosquitoes, bumblebees, and house flies. But I bet there are bugs around your house and yard that you can’t identify. (Photo by Blake Layton)

Filed Under: Crops, Insects-Crop Pests, Plant Diseases May 14, 2018

Two half-day training sessions next month will provide expertise on pest and disease control on small farms.

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When Mississippi achieved statehood in 1817, its cotton industry was only beginning to take off. By 1917, boll weevils were devastating the state’s cotton crop and its economy.

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