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Armyworm infestation invades West Tennessee

By Katie Shambo
By kshambo@wbbjtv.com

JACKSON, Tenn. -- An insect invasion is killing lawns across West Tennessee.

If you have noticed your lawn turning brown a little too early, you may be a victim of an armyworm infestation.

Lawn experts say these insects have not been this bad locally in years.

"I've been doing this 30 years, and I've never seen it this bad," said Keith Lovelace, owner of Lovelace Lawncare.

Lovelace says the infestation is particularly bad this year because of the mild summer. The worms thrive in cooler temperatures and with more rainfall.

Wanda Sims' property has fallen victim to the pests. "My tenant called me, and they said 'We have worms.' I was like 'Worms! What do you mean worms?' She said, 'we got worms everywhere!'"

Thousands of them have taken over Sims' yard. She told WBBJ 7 Eyewitness News she got the jitters after seeing the worms crawling everywhere.

The worms are the caterpillar stage of a moth. "The moths just lay the eggs, and then the armyworms come out and eat their environment," Lovelace said.

He says they are called armyworms because they move across your lawn like an army.

By the time you spot them, they have already caused damage to your lawn, but the damage can be reversed.

Experts say the worms are not harmful to humans, and insecticide should kill them on the spot.

Lovelace says to check your lawn for brown patches. He says since it is getting late in the year, your grass could be salvaged, but if left untreated there will be bad news come springtime.

"If it does not come back sufficiently, and we have a cold winter like we did last year, it could kill the roots, and next spring you have no grass at all," Lovelace said.

As for Sims, after lawn treatment her grass should be back to normal before spring.

Overall estimates of the armyworms' damage have not been done yet, but infestations have been reported far beyond West Tennessee.

Reports are listed all the way up to the Canadian border.