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Is your grass dying? It could be due to invasive Fall Armyworm spreading through NEO

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Posted at 11:26 PM, Sep 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-01 23:30:05-04

WESTLAKE, Ohio — There’s an intruder in Cleveland’s West Side suburbs: the Fall Armyworm.

Fall Armyworms are marching, munching and destroying lawns and plants at a rapid pace.

Dan Norris is a certified turf grass professional with Good Nature Organic Lawn Care. He said in the past week, the company has been inundated with hundreds of calls from frantic homeowners.

“You’re seeing a lot of lawns that are turning brown and people are like ‘oh my gosh, what’s going on? Am I going to lose my lawn?’” said Norris. “We have calls from Westlake, Avon Lake, Bay village, all over the west side.”

The Fall Armyworm is not native to Ohio, and typically lives in southern areas with tropical climates. Norris suspects the southern storms brought the mature moths up here.

“They got a free ride in with the wind,” he said. “The moths land in the area, they lay their eggs in the area, the eggs hatch and you’ve got these larvae, caterpillars, if you will, then they start feeding.”

They feed on healthy grass and plants, and they feed fast. Dillon Uranker’s Westlake home’s lawn fell victim to the worms in just a matter of days.

“It was brown, over there, and then it kind of just spread the whole way across,” he said. “It was a great, green lawn and now it’s brown and muddy it’s going to take awhile to grow back.”

Norris notes the worms work fast and can migrate to other lawns or green areas after the food supply is gone.

He said if you see some brown spots that are spreading in your yard, you can do an at home test: Fill a bucket with some water, mix in dish soap, and saturate an area of the ground, if worms come up, you have a problem.

“If you see signs of that, then you want to go in the treatment mode,” Norris said.

Norris said you need to kill the worms. His company, Good Nature, uses an organic formula that does that and they’ve treated several lawns with it.

But insecticides also do the job, according to the Ohio State University.

In a press release on the Fall Armyworm infestation, the school said this:

“Most turf managers are appearing to have success with their pyrethroid applications. However, we are getting reports from the agricultural markets that pyrethroids are not working well, so alternative chemistries should be considered.

Fall and yellowstriped armyworm populations often develop resistance to insecticide categories that are extensively used in the agricultural markets. Since our populations arrive from more southern regions, some moths may have arrived here in Ohio after their ancestors have been exposed to several applications of pyrethroids, carbamates, or organophosphates.

If you do not see a rapid kill of any fall armyworm population after the application of a pyrethroid, consider using an alternative. The diamides such as chlorantraniliprole (e.g., Acelepryn) or tetraniliprole (e.g., Tetrino) have excellent caterpillar-killing abilities.”

Norris said, most likely, the worms are more accustomed to tropical climates and will die off in the winter.