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The larvae of the fall armyworm cause damage by feeding on all plant parts. Young larvae initially eat leaf tissue from one side, leaving the opposite epidermal layer intact (windows feeding). Seedlings can be fed upon up to the destruction of buds and growing points. Larger larvae leave a characteristic row of perforations and ragged margins on leaves, as well as lines of larval frass. They can also cut the base of the plant or attack the reproductive and young fruit structures. In case of heavy infestation, fall armyworm larvae can cause extensive defoliation.
Eggs are laid in tight clusters of 100-300 on the undersides of the leaves, usually covered with scales. The larvae are light tan or green to nearly black, with stripes running along the flanks and a yellowish line along the back. The moth has white transparent hind wings and brown front wings mottled with lighter and darker marks. Each forewing has a noticeable whitish spot near the extreme tip. Diet and temperature determine the length of the different life cycle phases. Cool, wet springs followed by warm, humid weather favor the life cycle of the insect.
A number of parasitic enemies keep fall armyworm larvae down to moderate numbers. Wasp parasitoids include Cotesia marginiventris and Chelonus texanus. The most commonly used parasitoid fly is Archytas marmoratus. Predators include ground beetles, spined soldier bugs, flower bugs, birds or rodents. Bio-insecticides containing Bacillus Thuringiensis or Baculovirus Spodoptera, as well as Spinosad can be sprayed.
Always consider an integrated approach with preventive measures together with biological treatments if available. Recommended insecticides include esfenvalerate, carbaryl, chloropyriphos, malathion, permethrin, thiodicarb and lamba-cyhalothrin.