GALENA, Mo. – University of Missouri Extension agronomy specialists have been closely monitoring true armyworm activity in various crops in Missouri this year.  This comes after reports of significant damage to forages and crops in northern Arkansas.

To date there have been evidence in sections of southwest Missouri of their activity on fescue, bermudagrass, wheat and corn.  Some high numbers of moth counts have been observed in southern Missouri monitoring traps in the last month.

Tim Schnakenberg, an agronomy specialist with MU Extension based in Galena, Mo., has received reports from true armyworms from Barry, Cedar, Dade, Stone and Christian counties in just the last few days.

“Young corn seedlings and plants can be at risk.  The economic threshold for spraying this pest is when 25 percent or more of the plants are being damaged.  If the outbreak elevates to a high level, armyworms can consume a large amount of foliage and stunt the crop.  Check the seedlings and the whorls for leaf feeding,” said Schnakenberg.

Fescue seed and wheat producers should also be watching closely because large numbers of them may not only defoliate the plant, but they can clip heads as well.

“Treatment is justified in pastures and wheat fields when there are an average of four or more half-grown or larger larvae per square foot and before more than two or three percent of the heads are cut,” said Schnakenberg.

Dusk or dawn is the best time to be scouting for true armyworms because the young larvae are typically night feeders.  During the heat of the day they will be under plant debris on the ground.  As the larvae get bigger they will do an increased amount of day-time feeding.

The larvae have a greenish-brown body, nearly hairless, with two orange stripes along each side.  The head is brown with honeycomb markings.

According to Schnakenberg, once the moths move into an area, they lay their eggs and it may take two to three weeks for the young larvae to start doing damage.  It only takes the larvae five to seven days to grow from one-half inch to 1.5 inches in length.

“After they reach about 1.5 inches they begin to pupate, going into the ground and making a cocoon.  This first generation of true armyworms is generally the most damaging,” said Schnakenberg.

Producers can monitor insect activity in Missouri through the Missouri Pest Monitoring Network at  On this site, producers can find insect activity such as armyworm, cutworm, Japanese beetle, corn borer and corn earworms reported in traps maintained by extension agronomy specialists.  Producers can also sign up for a free email notification if an insect alert occurs around the state.

For information on sprays for true armyworms, visit the Greene County Extension website ( to download some specific recommendations from the University of Missouri for corn, wheat and fescue in southwest Missouri.

For more information, contact any of these MU Extension agronomy specialists in southwest Missouri: Tim Schnakenberg in Stone County, (417) 357-6812; Jay Chism in Barton County, (417) 682-3579; John Hobbs in McDonald County, (417) 223-4775 or Brie Menjoulet in Hickory County, (417) 745-6767.


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