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Worm invasion

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

OREGON COUNTY -- University Extension Ag Specialist Stacy Hambelton has bad news for local farmers. The dreaded armyworm has struck again in the county.

Hambelton said in 2001 thousands of acres of farm land was destroyed in the county because of the worms. "If we can catch them early enough, maybe the same thing will not happen this year," he said.

He said the first call on the worms came last week from a farm just north of Alton. "There were eight to 10 worms per square feet in the farm fields. Other areas of the same farm, in a close location, had no worms," he said.

"Currently there are four farms in the county already out spraying for the worms. They are just watching and waiting," he said.

Hambelton said what farmers need to look for is a tan or light brown moth that has an apostrophe or exclamation mark on its back in the middle of the forewing.

"Their rate of development is weather related, so it may be hastened by warm weather or slowed by cool weather," he said. He said rainy weather or high moisture conditions will be an asset in controlling the worm larvae.

He said typically it takes two to three weeks from the time the eggs are layed until they have hatched.

He said a full grown worm will reach one and one-half inches in length and will mostly attack primary grass crops such as corn, fescue, sorghum and wheat.

"Our farmers need to get out and scout for these worms. This is done best in the early morning hours or dusky dark. They usually remain hidden on bright sunny days," he said.

Hambelton said to look on the stems of the plants, in the dead leaves and on what he called, trash around the plant.

He said local farmers have three things in their favor as far as fighting the worms. They are fungus flies and wasps. "All three are natural enemies of the armyworms," he said.

Hambelton said the worms can cause severe damage to pastures which will result in a loss of income for farmers.

Anyone with any questions regarding the armyworms can call Hambelton at the local extension office at 417-778-7490.

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