Watch Out – There’s a New Pest Destroying Virginia’s Lawns

This pest was once only a menace for lawns in the Deep South. Because of climate change, it’s marching northwards and has invaded Virginia. What is this horrendous pest, you ask? Armyworms. They can completely destroy a lush green lawn in less than 48 hours. Some lawns are so infested, it actually can look like the lawn itself is moving! When they’ve had their fill, you’ll be left with dead grass and frustration. Your home should be a place of refuge – a place where you feel safe and protected. When armyworms invade, it can leave you feeling overwhelmed and on edge. Learn how to identify this new problem and what you can do to restore your lawn.

What Are Armywormsarmyworm on a damaged leaf

Armyworms have been a common pest in late summer and early fall in states farther south of us for many years. However, they have migrated north with the changing climate, and armyworms are now established in Virginia. They have even been found in the Midwest and Northeast regions. They’re named for the menacing way they invade your lawn – like an army. It really can’t be understated how quickly and efficiently they will strip your lawn of all the healthy grass. And they aren’t picky when it comes to finding a meal. Golf courses, athletic fields, and lawns of all stripes will fall victim. They actually prefer corn, which is their favorite meal, but they aren’t picky eaters. If they have the chance to devour your lawn, they’ll take it.

Adult armyworms have dark gray bodies and wings with light and dark splotches. If you look at their heads, you will observe an inverted letter “Y.” They begin their invasion in late summer and early fall – typically late August or early September. Their larvae looked like greenish-brown or black caterpillars with long white or orange stripes down their abdomens. A single momma armyworm can lay up to 2,000 eggs at a time – and she can mate multiple times a day. These eggs can hatch in as few as 5 – 10 days, so once one pregnant armyworm turns your lawn into a nursery, it won’t be long before you have a full-blown infestation on your hands. And unfortunately, these egg clusters are not only laid on your lawn but also on fences, walls, storage containers, sheds, garages, etc. Pretty much anywhere the mother armyworm feels her brood will be safe while they incubate.

Where Did Armyworms Come From

Armyworms are actually native to North America. They are relatively new to Virginia, but our neighbors to the south have dealt with them annually for quite a while. With how pervasive their damage is, it’s easy to assume they are a foreign invasive species. However, they can be found anywhere east of the Rocky Mountains. Experts believe they are moving farther north than they have in the past because of increasingly warmer temperatures resulting from climate change.

Signs Of Armyworm Damage

Armyworms are similar to another common lawn pest: sod webworms. Both will create web-like nests in your grass, but the key difference is that sod webworms are only active at night. They will take shelter in their tunnels during the day to hide from predators. Armyworms have no qualms about feeding during the day. And as they grow into adults, they will venture farther and farther up the stalks of grass. When they reach maturity, they’ll look for other lawns, and the cycle of destruction starts all over again. These are the most common signs of armyworm damage in lawns:

  • Brown or bare patches that seemingly appeared overnight.
  • Blades of grass that look like they’ve been ripped or torn up.
  • Dug up or disturbed areas of the lawn. Many animals will tear at the ground to get the armyworms for dinner.

If you suspect you’ve got armyworm damage but haven’t actually seen any worms yet, there’s a quick way to look. Fill a bucket with at least three gallons of warm water. Add a spoonful of Dawn dish soap to it and stir it gently – don’t make bubbles. Dump the bucket into the yard, wait, and watch to see if armyworms come wriggling out of the lawn. If you notice five or more worms in one square foot, you’ve got a full-blown infestation.

How To Restore Your Lawn After Armyworm Damagearmy worm damage on a leaf

Armyworms are one of the worst pests to have on your lawn because they work so quickly. The damage occurs gradually with other lawn pests and diseases, so you have time to diagnose it and react accordingly. But armyworms can eat an entire football field in one day! By the time you’ve realized you’ve got a problem, it’s likely too late. You can go to bed with a lush green lawn one day and wake up the next to destruction, and that’s not an exaggeration. Restoring your lawn is a two-fold process.

Step One: Kill The Armyworms

The best and fastest way to rid yourself of these critters is with a topical insecticide spray for your lawn. You’ll want to look for a product that contains one of these active ingredients:

  • azadirachtin
  • Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki (Bt)
  • bifenthrin
  • carbaryl
  • chlorantraniliprole
  • clothianidin
  • cyfluthrin
  • deltamethrin
  • dinotefuron
  • halofenozide
  • lambda-cyhalothrin
  • permethrin
  • spinosad
  • trichlorfon

Step Two: Treat For Damage

Most lawns recover from armyworm damage, but they likely need overseeding to patch up thin or bare areas. Nuleaf Lawn Care offers overseeding services, and we can help you select the correct grass seed blend that will best establish in your lawn. Some yards get full sun; others have quite a few shady areas. We’ll make sure to work with you to learn about your unique situation and help you get your lawn back to a pre-armyworm condition – maybe even healthier!

Once new grass seed has been laid down, the next step is to get your lawn healthy again. We offer both hybrid lawn care which uses a mixture of synthetic chemicals and natural organic materials. We also offer a fully organic program if you’re concerned about using synthetic chemicals.

Find Lawn Care Services Near Fairfax

If armyworms have destroyed your lawn, we can help! The experts at Nuleaf Lawn Care have many years of experience restoring and revitalizing lawns that have been decimated by insects, heat stress, and other problems. Our lawn care services are 100% customizable to meet your lawn’s needs – we don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach. To learn more or schedule an appointment, give us a call at 703-989-9405, or you can reach us through our online form here.  And don’t forget to connect with us through our blog page, where you can browse more articles on yard care topics.

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