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Hurricane Ida blew destructive armyworms into local area

Submitted photo Fall armyworms feed as a group and can devour an entire lawn or hay field in a matter of days.

ELKINS — Bad weather conditions wasn’t the only thing Hurricane Ida blew into the Mountain State back during the first week of September.

Several area residents, especially those in Barbour County, suffered an attack from an army. Not an army of human soldiers, but of armyworm moths who hitched a ride from Ida and bombed many local lawns with their eggs.

“We didn’t get any reports of any damage in Randolph County, but we had some down in Barbour County and they definitely had some in the Greenbrier Valley and over in the panhandle as well,” Jody Carpenter, Agriculture and Natural Resource Agent for the WVU Randolph County Extension Service, told The Inter-Mountain. “Over in Greenbrier and Monroe County they had some damage with some lawns and in some pastures with hay crops, and in Barbour they had a little bit of that too.”

Each June, armyworm moths journey from the south and make a brief appearance in the Mountain State. While here they lay eggs that produce striped caterpillars and the larvae of an ordinary, benign brown moth.

“Them being here was kind of a fluke this year, we usually don’t have to monitor for that insect here,” said Carpenter. “But the hurricane blew in some moths and they laid eggs.”

The life cycle from larvae to moth is brief, usually about 30 days. Adult moths live for nearly two weeks and lay up to 2,000 eggs in clusters of 100 and 2,000, typically underneath leaves, around tree trunks and on the undersides of plant leaves and tree limbs.

“We see them here and there with some field and sweet corn, but not the levels we saw this year in the state,” Carpenter said. “Most of them have probably died off by now.

“Usually in North Carolina and in warmer temperature areas, you will get multi-generations a year, but here in West Virginia you usually see that one generation and they get killed off.”

Fall armyworms feed as a group and can devour an entire lawn or hay field in a matter of days.

The insects, which die when the first frost hits, prefer grasses, including rye and wheat. But they have been known to damage field crops such as alfalfa, barley, bermudagrass, buckwheat, clover, corn, oats, millet, sorghum, sugar beets, sudangrass and soybeans.

The feed of armyworms is eventually reduced by cold temperatures and the insects will eventually die with the first fall frost, officials said.

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