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True Armyworms Feeding on Wheat
Author: Glenn Studebaker, Extension Entomologist/IPM Coordinator

true armyworm
True armyworms are showing up in high numbers in wheat in south Arkansas at this time. True armyworms are a threat to wheat when heading starts to occur. Wheat is very attractive to the armyworm and thick, vigorously growing fields can attract high infestations. True armyworms prefer to feed on the leaves of the plant. They begin feeding on leaves near the base of the plant and move up the stem, feeding on the flag leaf last. In Arkansas our wheat has generally reached the stage where yield has been set by the time these caterpillars take the flag leaf off the plant. Research has shown that once the crop has reached the soft dough stage, leaf feeding has no significant effect on yield. Occasionally, when wheat starts to mature, armyworms will move up from leaf feeding and cut the wheat heads from the plant stem. We’re getting a few reports of some head cutting in southwest Arkansas wheat. This type of damage can have serious consequences on yield, and fields should be treated if head cutting is observed. Armyworms will usually hide under debris during the day and are usually only out feeding at night or during overcast days. Treatment should only be made if head cutting is beginning to occur and armyworms are present. See the small grains section of MP 144 “Insecticide Recommendations for Arkansas” for a list of recommended insecticides if treatment is necessary.

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