While homeowners and business owners in the South don’t tend to love the golden-brown hue their lawns take on throughout the winter, many do enjoy having a few months of limited lawn maintenance. But when your grass does spring back to life and return to its beautiful green (which will happen in the blink of an eye), you can do yourself a favor by knowing about some of the common lawn pests you’re at risk for, including how to spot them and what to do if you suspect an infestation. Today, our professionals at Turf Shield Lawn are here to give you the cliff notes on one common pest in Georgia: armyworms.
What are armyworms?
To put it simply, armyworms are caterpillars which later mature into certain breeds of moths. While they spend their winters in warmer climates like South America, they return to North America (primarily the Southeastern US) as the weather heats back up. Some breeds (true armyworms) can appear in Georgia in early spring, while others (called fall armyworms) thrive in July and August. The problem is that armyworms like to eat blades of grass, giving the lawn an uneven and unattractive look by either chewing holes in the grass or eating it all the way down to the ground if the infestation is severe. And unfortunately, they’re particularly prevalent in the Atlanta area and the rest of Georgia because they prefer the warm season grasses we tend to use, like bermudagrass.
How do I detect armyworms?
One sign that you may have an infestation on your hands is that your lawn has small patches of brown, especially around the edges. Noticing a high number of birds and moths in your yard may be a hint as well, because they like to catch and eat the armyworms. Because these caterpillars eat the top of the grass rather than the roots, and because they can become as large as 1½ -2 inches long, armyworms can often be spotted with the naked eye. Look closely at your yard in the early morning or early evening, because these are their primary feasting times. However, to see if they’re hiding, you can also try a test called a soap flush. Simply mix a gallon of water with two tablespoons of liquid dishwashing soap and use a watering can to soak an area of 1-2 square feet. This will draw any covert armyworms to the surface.
How can I treat my lawn for armyworms?
This is where we come in at Turf Shield Lawn. Pest control is a delicate balance, because on top of protecting your kids and pets from dangerous chemicals, you want a pesticide which will impact the bug you’re struggling with, but you don’t want one that will kill off the populations of their natural predators (like birds and certain moths, in this case), because these natural predators can keep the pest’s population in check to help stave off future infestations. To keep this balance (and to ensure that your lawn treatment is productive), it’s always best to look to a professional rather than just grabbing your best guess of a yard spray at the home improvement store. Fortunately, because they primarily stay above ground, armyworms are often rather easy to eradicate, but here are a few tips:
- Mow your lawn shortly before the lawn pest control treatment is applied, because the shorter your grass is, the less distance the insecticide needs to penetrate.
- Give your yard some water shortly before treatment, because it may help to bring out the armyworms and increase their activity. This can vary from one customer to the next, though, so be sure to follow the pre-treatment instructions our lawn care professionals provide.
As with most aspects of lawn care, armyworm control is all about early detection and reacting in the correct way. While armyworms don’t generally damage the grass’ ability to grow in the future (because they feed on the leaves and not the roots), they can certainly make your lawn look unsightly in a hurry, so it’s best to treat them as soon as you spot them. Contrary to the rumors, it is possible to get rid of lawn pests without killing all the desirable parts of your yard’s ecosystem as well—if it’s done correctly, that is. If you’re ready to discuss your yard’s issues with armyworms or other problems, or if you simply want to keep your lawn looking its best, schedule a free consultation with Turf Shield Lawn Care.