Fall Armyworms Invade Alabama Farmland

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MOULTON, Ala.(WHNT) - An invasion of pint-size pests is wreaking havoc across much of Alabama's farmland.

Reports from farmers indicate that fall armyworms are spreading through the state at a rapid rate, with some growers calling it the biggest armyworm outbreak in years.

The chronic pest is known for having a voracious appetite for hay, but it will also feed on soybeans, corn, and cotton among other crops.

State agriculture officials told WHNT News 19 that some fields have already suffered substantial losses from armyworm infestations. An early spring and hot, dry summer created optimal breeding conditions for the bug, which traditionally thrives when autumn starts.

"This is probably the biggest outbreak that I can remember," said Roland Coan, a hay farmer in Lawrence County. "As they came back into the field, they obliterated anything that was in their path.  They are public enemy number one."

Coan said it can cost up to $10 per acre to treat and remove armyworms, a sizable investment for many farmers who have already battled summer drought.

Fall armyworms are actually the caterpillar stage of a tropical moth that migrates to Alabama from Central and South America every year. Another infamous armyworm outbreak came exactly 100 years ago in 1912, when several north Alabama counties took substantial hits from the pest.