Do you ever notice brown, dry areas in the rough during your game of golf and wonder what is happening? Well, if it is late July through September, the discoloration and tuff damage is likely caused by fall armyworms! Fall armyworms are a prolific pest of turf grass and agricultural crops. The armyworm moths lay eggs on any off-ground structure, particularly trees. Fall armyworms quickly destroy turf as the larvae hatch, descend trees, and devour leaf tissue.
This annual infestation is one golf course agronomists worry about most. Agronomist John Daniels explains to USGA “infestations have the capability to take out turf overnight”. Daniels shares a single female moth could deposit more than 1,000 larvae eggs, which can hatch in just a few days. To preserve the composition and life of your course, detecting and treating armyworms in the early stages is crucial! CBS News reporting from September 3rd, 2021, states the current weather conditions pose the “worst break of armyworms in decades”. The recent dry climate, coupled with storms, have the typically Southeast based insects migrating as far north as New York and Boston, ravaging on the available green.
Treatment for armyworms can be chemical or holistic. Professor Adam Dale Ph. D at University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences proposes to “plant more wildflowers as it will recruit wasps such as the potter wasp, which love armyworms and will remove them by the armfuls”. While this unconventional technique is interesting, The Golf Club of Georgia takes a more direct and successful approach. Our procedures include monitoring turf areas mainly around wood lines where the army worms are likely to fall out the trees. When army worms are found we use a golf course approved insecticide, Talstar, to eradicate the infestation. This course of action has worked well for our course consistently over the years. Our only worries at this point in the season is if the army worms are not taken care of, the turf will not have adequate time for recovery before turning dormant for the winter season.