NewsLocal News


Invasive armyworms damaging Tri-State yards

Posted at 4:20 PM, Sep 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-03 19:57:19-04

Invasive fall armyworms are damaging yards across the Tri-State. Environmental officials said there’s been an unusually high number of reports.

Armyworms are typically more of a problem in the South, but this year we’re seeing an explosion of the fall armyworm population in the Tri-State.

Mark Sulc, OSU Professor of Horticulture & Crop Science, said they’re causing damage to grass and crops.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in my entire career in Ohio, 30 years,” Sulc said. “Everyone I've talked to who's been here longer has never seen anything like this.”

The adult is a moth. Then it lays eggs, which hatch in two to three weeks as fall armyworms.

“Moths can actually travel on the Jet Stream air flows of over 500 miles in 24 hours. So if you get the right kind of weather systems, they can be dropped all across the state,” Sulc said.

The fall armyworm has well over 100 plants it feeds on, including many grasses. They also like alfalfa, soybeans, beets, cabbage, tomato and potato.

“They can do tremendous damage overnight. Like, they can take down, eat a whole field in one night,” Sulc said.

Many homeowners are watching their grass die in a day’s time. Tom Brenner noticed some brown areas on his lawn.

"Oh it just makes me sick, because it looks so ugly,” he said. “I noticed a couple spots in the backyard. The next day they were bigger.”

Brenner got his lawn treated last week and the spreading has since stopped.

Weedman owner Seth Hillenmeyer said it’s not uncommon for this time of year, but the calls kept coming.

“By the end of the week, we had over 2,000 phone calls,” Hillenmeyer said.

The worms can be various colors, but they typically have stripes and an upside down "Y" on their backs.

“Well, you have to be checking for them, because when they're big, they're a lot harder to kill,” Hillenmeyer said.

Sulc said you can get rid of them with an insecticide, but it isn't as effective once the worms are large. He said it’s important to keep your eye out between now and the first frost to get rid of them while they’re still small.