Armyworms In The Wabash Valley

Army Worm Infestation
Over the last week, we have seen an outbreak of fall armyworms in the Wabash Valley. In our 34 years in business, we have only had about a dozen lawns affected by armyworms. In the last week, we are seeing the largest outbreak since the 1970’s according to many universities. This email is intended to educate and inform our customers about what we are seeing in lawns and what can be done to help remedy the issue.

What, why, how?
We are seeing the larval stage of the armyworm infest the Wabash Valley. These caterpillar-type insects come in several colors but appear to be mostly black or brown with stripes. They will feed primarily on cool-season turf grasses and agricultural crops. As an adult, the armyworm is generally a gray moth with a 1 1/2 inch wingspan. Entomologists do not have a real answer to why Armyworms are so widespread this year other than weather patterns. Winds allowed for dispersal, and ideal moisture has allowed for high fecundity and survivability. Typically natural enemies help keep the population in check.

Since this is a very rare occurrence in the Wabash Valley, we are trying to learn as much as we can about this insect and the impact that it is having on lawns. Because of the life cycle, feeding habits, and resistance to pesticides, a preventative application would not have had any effect on the current outbreak. Not every lawn will be impacted by armyworms but it is good to understand them and know what to look for on your own.

The armyworms are only feeding on the foliage. Areas can look scalped, or they can brown out when foliage dehydrates quickly during feeding. The turf should recover. I’d fertilize it and encourage growth. If the crown is exposed, water lightly in the heat of the day to prevent the crown from drying out.

In the last week, we have made several service calls and discovered armyworm damage. It first appears as drought stress but can spread quite fast as the insect is feeding. Below are pictures of armyworm larvae, damage, and eggs.

Moving Forward…
There are a few easy ways to check for armyworms on your lawn.

1) Get down and dirty in your grass. Look for the actual worms. They are always on the surface of the turf and are about 1-2 inches long.
2) Pull the turf. If the grass comes up but the roots stay in the ground, that’s a very good identifier of armyworm damage.
3) Look for signs of armyworm eggs. These eggs look like white masses and are usually found on structures and buildings. I have found some this morning on our clothesline post as pictured above.

Armyworms feed on the leaf tissue but leave the crown and roots of the grass intact. Insecticide can be used to spray and kill armyworms to stop the current feeding damage, but it will not reverse the damage once done. Insecticides will only be effective in early instar stages of the armyworm. Once feeding begins, there is a very short window to successfully apply an insecticide that will kill the worm. Once you notice damage, the armyworm is usually on day 2 or 3 of their 5 day feeding cycle. It is almost always too late to apply an insecticide at this point. If you feel that an insecticide treatment is warranted, choose one that contains bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, or carbaryl (Sevin). Always read and follow all labeled instructions of any products that you apply. If you have questions, consult a professional licensed applicator.  

Ultimately, irrigation and a proper fertilizer program will be the best thing for the turf to regrow and recover. Purdue University is not suggesting an insecticide treatment for our area as the armyworms will no survive in our climate and it is not expected for us to see any more generations to cause future damage.

The recommended recovery strategy is to irrigate, fertilize, apply insecticide (only if worms are still actively feeding on turf), overseed and aerate. Insecticide treatments at this time will not be effective as many of the armyworms have begun to dig into the soil to pupate.

Summary

The fall armyworms in the Wabash Valley is a very rare event. Entomologists have not seen a recorded infestation at this level in at least 40 years. Insecticide treatments may help, but only if the worms are small and actively feeding. The feeding stage of the armyworm lasts 4-5 days maximum. They only feed on the foliage and will not kill the plant. Proper irrigation and a healthy fertilizer program will encourage plant regrowth and lawns should recover over the coming weeks. If you decide to apply an insecticide, always read and follow all labeled instructions. Consult a licensed professional if you have questions.

COVID-19 Update

Bowman’s Pro Turf, LLC Operation During COVID-19 Outbreak

Over the last few weeks, the workforce in the United States and Wabash Valley has been affected by the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak. We have been closely monitoring the situation and assessing how it may eventually affect the lawn care industry and our business locally. At this time, we see no reason to halt the daily business operations of Bowman’s Pro Turf, LLC. While we are taking this very seriously, we also feel it also important to provide the promised services to our customers and maintain a sense of normalcy for as long as we are able.

Unlike some jobs, our operation is based on the independent work of our technicians on the property of our customers. We currently have very little face to face interaction with many of our customers in our day to day operations.

Using the guidance and recommendations of the National Association of Landscape Professionals, the CDC, and in compliance with OSHA, we are taking the following steps to ensure the safety of our employees and our customers.

  • Daily cleaning and disinfecting of all personal equipment and work vehicles.
  • Continued email and phone call interactions with all clients and limit unnecessary face to face interactions.
  • Follow all local, state, and federal guidelines and restrictions.
  • Encouraging staff to stay home if feeling sick or showing symptoms of illness.
  • Working with all staff to provide flexibility during times of school closings.
  • Constantly assess the situation while maintaining business operations for all customers.

Because of the already strict rules of wearing Personal Protective Equipment, our team members have already been following many of the guidelines suggested by the CDC and other agencies. We are confident that we will continue to provide outstanding and timely services for the Wabash Valley and our customers over the coming weeks and months. The safety of our employees and customers is always at the front of our minds. We take this situation very seriously and want to reassure our customers that while we are on your property, we are taking all necessary precautions while providing the quality service you have come to expect

We are asking for the support of our customers and the community to urge local officials to allows us to continue to provide these services during this time. Our livelihood depends on being able to travel freely and preform work on our customers property. The very strict safety regulations already in place help to protect us and our customers from unnecessary contact and spreading of the disease.

Protect Your Landscape

Insect and Disease Control

Bowman’s Pro Turf, LLC’s Ornamental Tree and Shrub Program consists of scheduled treatments that are designed for year-long plant health and vigor. Pest control agents are used as needed to minimize insect and disease problems. Insect and disease controls often begin while the pant is still dormant in the spring, and may continue until fall.

Common insect treatments that we preform include:

  • Emerald Ash Borer
  • Tent Caterpillars
  • Bag Worms
  • Beetles
  • Aphids

Tree & Shrub Fertilization

Trees and shrubs have a very unique growing cycle throughout the year. We time our tree and shrub fertilization program to best meet the growing needs of the plants in your landscape. In the spring, plants take up nutrients and spend much of their energy producing new foliage and seeds. During the summer months, plants begin to store water as heat and drought stress may occur. In the fall, plants being to transfer nutrients into the root system for storage over winter.

Our fertilization program will match the growing cycle of the plants and foliage as the plant needs change. A healthy tree and shrub program will greatly increase color, longevity, and curb appeal of your property!

Bed Care

During your regularly scheduled lawn care treatment, you may ask your technician to spray the weeds growing in the landscape beds. While this can be done, special products need to be used to ensure your flowers and other desired plants are not harmed by any weed control products. If you wish for our technician to spray for weed in your landscape beds, an additional charge will be added to your account. 

We apply a special pre-emergent herbicide and fertilizer to your landscape bed to help keep many weeds from growing in your landscaping. Please keep in mind that as you add new mulch, dig in the soil, or disturb the protective barrier made by the products we use, some weeds will grow between applications. Some hand pulling will still be required as the weeds die after the application. Because your landscape is such a delicate area, sometimes weeds will not be able to be properly sprayed as they might be too close or even in with desired plants.

Emerald Ash Borer

Over the last few years, the Emerald Ash Borer has destroyed millions of ash tress across the United States. Here in the Wabash Valley, we can see the damage first hand almost anywhere we go. From local parks to subdivision tree rows, ash trees are being destroyed by this invasive insect. The city of Indianapolis will be spending almost $20,000,000 just to remove all of the dead ash trees from this insect. The average cost of tree removal is around $1,000. The cost to replace a fully grown tree cannot really be measured.

We are trained to identify Emerald Ash Borer damage and know the best methods to treat your ash trees. From direct injection into the tree trunk to deep root soil drenching, we can provide your ash trees with the protection it needs.

If you do not treat your ash trees, they will become infested with the Emerald Ash Borer and will die within just a few years after being first infested. Treatment after a tree has been infested can save a tree, but remember that the part of the tree that has already died will never recover.