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Armyworms made a major trek through a portion of Kentucky this summer

Dan Potter UK Entomology

It appears Kentucky, along with lots of other states, has weathered this year’s armyworm invasion. But, the vast number of ravenous caterpillars left a lot of vegetative destruction in their wake. University of Kentucky Entomologist Jonathan Larson said larger numbers further north than usual, rain-fed turf, and winds created a perfect storm for a large march into the Commonwealth. “What they do is they feed sort of gregariously as a group and they will march across a lawn or across a pasture and you can almost see the line move over the course of the day as they just sort of start munching on stuff. And it got the name because it looked like an army marching through and causing a lot of destruction,” said Larson.

Larson said many in the agriculture community were prepared for the high number of armyworms. But, he noted some golf courses, parks, pastures, and individual homeowner lawns took a stronger hit.

Larson said a colleague at Auburn called it the largest infestation since the late 1970’s. The UK insect specialist added the hope is there will not be a rerun next year. “So we’re very hopeful that this is a once in a lifetime kind of thing. That this is a generational problem that we have this year, that we won’t contend with again for a very long time. That being said, you can never make any promises when it comes to bugs. They’re trickly little boogers,” explained Larson.

Larson said activity has been slowing in recent weeks and a hard freeze should put an end to the armyworm population in Kentucky for this year.

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