Invasive armyworms taking over central Kentucky yards

Published: Aug. 25, 2021 at 5:22 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - While armyworms originate in the deep south, they are often times seen in Kentucky each year. However, entomologists said they’ve received more reports of them than usual.

“It seems more widespread. We’ve heard from colleagues down south that this is the worst fall armyworm they’ve had since the late 1970s and it seems like we’re getting some of that as well,” said Jonathan Larson, an entomologist at the University of Kentucky.

In their adult moth stage, they lay eggs that then become worms, which can destroy yards and crops. One Lexington homeowner impacted by these armyworms said much of his yard was killed in a matter of 24 hours before he knew what caused it.

“Honestly, it’s something I’ve never seen before,” said Seth Hillenmeyer, owner of Weed Man Lawn Care. “We’ve never seen an insect do this type of damage this quickly and so now after some research, what we know about them is that they can eat up to a football field in less than 48 hours.”

Because armyworms migrate from more southern regions, entomologists said weather can play a big role in helping spread these insects from areas that have already seen higher reports.

“A lot of times we have these strong southerly winds and they’re bringing up these insects, and that really moves up aphids, moths, and other insects into Kentucky,” said Ric Bessin, extension entomologist at UK.

And while it takes 2-3 weeks for these armyworms to mature, they are often more destructive in these later stages when it’s too late to catch them. But there are some things you can do to at least save some of your lawn.

“We would like to see them get controlled earlier in their life cycle but it’s harder to notice when they’re there, so you can still do something right now, you may have to renovate parts of your yard going into next year but there are some insecticides you can use,” Larson said.

Entomologists said while armyworms can last into fall, they’ll usually die off or leave our area after the first frost.

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