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army worm moth

Q: I have found these rice-like eggs on my grass. They are a light beige color. What are they?

A:What you probably have are the eggs of the armyworm, which is the larva of a moth. Armyworms are common pests found on grass and vegetables. One of the species of army worm prefers Bermuda grass and crabgrass, but they seldom are a severe problem in St. Augustine grass. The face of the mature larva is marked with a white inverted “Y”. They are 1-1/2 inches long; they are greenish and have blackish stripes along each side and down the center of the back.

In coastal areas of north Florida, moths are abundant from April to December, but some are found even during the winter months. The adult moths are brownish gray. Their wings measure about 1-1/2 inches across when expanded, so you can see they are quite small. The armyworm and the fall armyworm are common species. When they are numerous, they may devour the grass down to the ground. Their feeding causes circular bare areas in lawns.

Armyworms spend the winter as pupae or as mature larvae which pupate in the spring. Moths emerge in the spring, mate, and lay eggs in masses on host plants (mostly in the grass family). Larvae feed for about 4 weeks but do most of their damage during the last 10 days of this period. When I see these on my lawn or vegetables I pick them off and throw them away. It seems wasteful to spread insecticide all over the lawn for one or two leaves. I had a few problems last year with army worms, but by hand picking them I have seen none this year. I have even hand picked them off my neighbors yard – I freely admit it has become an obsession. Checking over your lawn and landscape plants (called scouting) can save you a world of trouble by catching problems early.