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Voracious insects on rise in Arkansas

Drought likely to blame

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If the spring flooding, summer triple-digit heat and drought we've seen this summer weren't enough to convince gardeners to turn in their thumbs, consider these terrifying bug invasions: According to the Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, voracious grasshoppers and fall armyworms are on the rise. We can thank the drought for the increase in grasshoppers, since the fungi that normally keep their numbers down don't thrive in dry heat. Grasshoppers — which can consume as much as 50 percent of their body weight in forage a day — have been wreaking havoc on pastures and home gardens alike. (U of A fact: 50 pounds of grasshoppers can eat as much as a full-grown cow.) We can thank the recent rains for the jackboot march of armyworms (above) through irrigated fields. Armyworms are denser and causing more damage this year, UA entomologist Kelly Loftin says. Armyworms move quickly and in large numbers (hence the name); you can find up to 20 per 25 per square foot of vegetation. Vigilance is key, Loftin said: The only way to mitigate damage is to spot them early and disarm them with insecticide (including something relatively environmentally-friendly like Spinosad).

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