Invasion of the army worms! How to protect your lawn, according to the experts

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Protect your lawn from hungry armyworms with these treatments. (Photo: Lowe’s)

If you have a lush, green lawn, you want it to look like that too. But there is a small enemy that wants to torpedo your plans. They are called army worms and they now eat their way across lawns.

Army worms are a type of caterpillar, Howard Russell, an entomologist at Michigan State University, tells Yahoo Life. “They get their common name ‘army worm’ from their marching behavior when there are very large numbers,” he explains. “They consume their favorite host plants in an area and then flock to new areas to find food, consuming almost every plant in their path.”

Army worms are actually the larval stage of the army worm moth (i.e. baby moths), Ben Hottel, technical services manager at Orkin, tells Yahoo Life. “You can identify adult armyworm larvae by their brownish bodies and thin white stripes down the center of their backs,” he says.

The Midwest, in particular, is currently struggling with armyworms, Russell says. “It devours lawns and crops,” noting that some Ohio counties are reporting their worst fall armyworm outbreaks in 30 years.

Unfortunately, these little critters like to eat. “Armyworms eat a variety of plants, not just grass,” Stephanie Evans, board-certified entomologist and technical education manager for Ehrlich pest control, tells Yahoo Life. “They move like an army across a field or lawn, hungrily munching on the plants in their path. Not only do they have a voracious appetite, but when the conditions are right — as we’re seeing this year — their population can be huge.”

Before you give up and assume that your grass and plants are doomed to be consumed by these little invaders, know this: there are treatments you can use to get rid of armyworms.

In general, armyworm treatments contain one of the following active ingredients:

  • Spinosade. This is derived from a soil bacterium, Evans explains. “It acts like a neurotoxin that basically excites the caterpillar’s nervous system to the point where they become paralyzed and die,” she says. “There are several products with spinosad that are approved for organic use.”

  • Bacillus thuringiensis. Also known as Bt, this is a common soil bacterium that attacks insects when they eat it, Evans says. “It activates in the insect’s gut and causes it to starve,” she says. “Bt products will not harm mammals such as humans and pets, so it is often used not only for caterpillars but also as a mosquito larvicide to treat standing water.” Keep this in mind, according to Russell: This really works best on smaller army worms. “Marching fall armyworms are too big to be controlled by Bt unless you hit them with the bag,” he says.

  • Bifenthrin, carbaryl and permethrin. Carbaryl comes from a class of chemicals called carbamates. “It’s been around for a while and you may even recognize the original brand name Sevin,” Evans says. Bifenthrin and permethrin belong to a class of chemicals called pyrethroids. “If you’re using any of these products, you need to read the label,” Evans says. “There are important precautions you should take to protect not only yourself when applying the product, but also the environment. The pyrethroids are commonly used in pest control for their efficacy, but you should follow the directions on the label when applying However, this group of pesticides is “effective at controlling fall worms” and can help keep them away, Russell says.

Ready to save your lawn? Stock up on these products.

Those army worms won't know what hit them.  (Photo: Lowe's)

Those army worms won’t know what hit them. (Photo: Lowe’s)

You can treat a lot of lawn with Sevin Insect Killer Lawn Pellets – this 20 pound bag can handle up to 20,000 square feet. Sevin will help protect your lawn from harmful insects such as army worms for up to three months. It also targets over 100 other insects, including ants, fleas, ticks and grubs. “After one application, we got rid of the army worms,” ​​said a satisfied customer.

$17 at Lowe’s

This pesticide kills army worms and other pests on contact.  (Photo: Lowe's)

This pesticide kills army worms and other pests on contact. (Photo: Lowe’s)

This fast-acting pesticide kills more than 100 insects, including army worms, ants, crickets, fleas and cockroaches. Spectracide Triazide is intended to be used when pests first appear or when you notice that you have lawn damage. Simply apply the granules to the grass and water your lawn. This 20-pound bag covers up to 25,000 square feet of grass. “I applied bug repellent to a 4’x12′ garden bed after all plantings were removed,” said one happy customer. “The next morning I collected 63 larvae that were dead or dying… Great stuff. I’ll buy it again next year.’

$13 at Lowe’s

Take out all types of larvae at once.  (Photo: Lowe's)

Take out all types of larvae at once. (Photo: Lowe’s)

Do you have larvae? BioAdvanced Grub Killer Plus kills them within 24 hours. It also removes army worms, chinch bugs, crickets, ticks and more. Just sprinkle on it and water your lawn. “My lawn was severely devastated by an infestation of grubs in the later stages. I was in a panic,” said one fan, noting that they were reaching for this grub killer. “Within one to two days, the activity stopped,” they said. “After the third day I started partial renovation and reseeding. It’s now about two and a half weeks after the fact and my lawn is fully recovering.”

$20 at Lowe’s

This pesticide is made with a naturally derived botanical oil.  (Photo: Lowe's)

This pesticide is made with a naturally derived botanical oil. (Photo: Lowe’s)

Nervous about using traditional pesticides on your grass? EcoLogic Insect Killer for Lawn and Garden uses corn mint oil and geranium to keep army worms and other pests away. It’s safe for use around children and pets – just sprinkle on up to 20,000 square feet of your lawn and water. “The scent is wonderful if you like the natural scent of essential oils. We will continue to use this product as long as they make it.”

$13 at Lowe’s

Attach your hose and get to work.  (Photo: Lowe's)

Attach your hose and get to work. (Photo: Lowe’s)

Do you have a garden hose? That’s all you need to get started Ortho BugClear for lawns. This pesticide kills 235 different insects, including army worms and ants. It starts getting rid of pests in minutes and keeps them away. Just attach your hose to the bottle and spray away. “I had a lot of bug problems…so I tried Ortho Bugclear Insect Killer. I noticed within a few days that I didn’t see that many insects around my lawn around my house,” said one satisfied customer. “I will continue to use Ortho Buglclear to reduce the bug nuisance while enjoying some quality time at home.”

$5 at Lowe’s

The reviews quoted above reflect the most recent versions at the time of publication.

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