Following reports of the crop damage armyworm larvae have already caused across Upstate New York, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer recently urged the U.S Department of Agriculture to elevate the armyworm to the agricultural research service's (ARS) priority list of pests, in order to avoid devastating damage to crops and lawns in Western New York, the North Country, Central New York and the Rochester-Finger Lakes region. Specifically, Schumer wrote to USDA Secretary Thomas Vilsack and asked that he also ensure that the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) produce a report with an updated guidance for controlling the pest, which would be helpful to those farmers and residents currently experiencing issues with armyworms, as well as preventative measures for those that have yet to experience the invasion of armyworms.
Armyworm larvae typically appear in mid-June, but are usually kept in check by predators. This year, however, reports indicate that storm systems blew the adult moths that produce the larvae into Western New York in late-May, well before their main predators-egg-laying flies and a virus that disperses throughout fields-arrived. Since then, these armyworms have advanced ground at a rapid pace, oftentimes overnight, to the Rochester region, Western and Central New York, and the North Country. Thus far, Onondaga, Jefferson, Cayuga, Orleans, Genesee, Wyoming, Monroe, Livingston, Wayne, Ontario, Yates, Seneca, Erie, Niagara, Chautauqua Counties have reported an armyworms presence. While predators will help reduce the population, it does not appear that they will be able to eliminate this invasive insect as typically occurs.
"Armyworms are one visitor that no family farmer in Upstate New York can afford to live with this summer," said Schumer. "As this pest devours crop fields and lawns at an alarming pace across Western and Central New York, the Rochester Finger Lakes, and the North Country, I am urging the USDA to rank the armyworm a 'high priority pest' in their agricultural research and action docket. I am pushing the USDA to update its guidance for controlling the armyworm as soon as possible and mobilize the resources at its disposal to help farmers and homeowners that have seen armyworms take hold of their property, all while detailing preventative measures for those that have evaded the armyworm thus far. It has been seven years since USDA issued its last guidance, and New Yorkers cannot wait another seven years while this pest devours their fields."
The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) last issued guidance on the pest in 2005. The agricultural research service (ARS), which is USDA's research arm, does not consider the armyworm a high priority pest. Senator Schumer, however, is pushing to change that.
New York last experienced notable infestations in 2001 and 2008. The bugs typically do not overwinter in New York; instead, they are carried north from southern states by moths in the Spring. The migrations of these are difficult to predict, however, because they are sporadic and cyclic from year-to-year.
Cornell University has received National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) grants to study the pest, but this most recent infestation has made clear that more work needs to be done.