Question of the Week: September 22, 2016
“Neil, what’s happened to all our bermudagrass? Suddenly it looks like mid-winter.”
I don’t repeat a question very often here, but I continue to get call after e-mail after Facebook post asking what’s going on. The problem continues, and people are really alarmed. It’s only impacting bermuda (not St. Augustine) and not so much woody landscape plants.
Some of the questioners have astutely observed that there are thousands of small guests eating their way through their properties. These are armyworms. They’re the larval form of a small moth that seems to show up every 10 or 15 years in great proliferation. This is one of those years.
The adult moths lay their eggs on bermuda turf, and as the larvae hatch, they eat like starving teenagers. Within a day or two the lawn is completely bare, looking almost like it does in mid-January after hard freezes.
The good news (Item 1) is that almost any general-purpose insecticide, organic or inorganic, that is labeled for lawn insect control will kill them. And the other good news (Item 2) is that they’re only eating the blades. The runners and roots are left alone. They’re doing just fine.
So, essentially what the armyworms are doing is the same thing we do when we scalp our lawns in late winter. And just as scalping doesn’t kill the grass, neither will armyworms.
Whether you spray or not then becomes a matter or your own personal choice. But now you know.