How to Manage Pests
UC Pest Management Guidelines
Western Yellowstriped Armyworm
Scientific Name: Spodoptera praefica
(Reviewed 11/06, updated 8/15)
In this Guideline:
Description of the Pest
This pest may be abundant in alfalfa fields in the Central Valley. The caterpillar is usually black, with two prominent stripes and many narrow bright ones on each side. At maturity it is approximately 1.5 to 2 inches long. Eggs are laid in clusters on the upper side of leaves and covered with a gray, cottony material. Eggs hatch in a few days and larvae reach full size in 2 to 3 weeks. Larvae pupate on or just under the soil surface. Adults are brown moths that primarily fly at night but may be encountered flying up as you walk through the field. There are at least five generations per year in the low desert and four generations in the Central Valley. This pest may be abundant at any time from June to early September.
Armyworms skeletonize leaves, leaving veins largely intact.
Populations of armyworms are frequently controlled by natural enemies and are more or less cyclic, occurring in large numbers only every few years. Early harvest, border cutting and biological control are important management methods that prevent damage from armyworms.
Natural enemies can provide good control of armyworms in many fields. Predators include bigeyed bugs, spiders, minute pirate bugs, damsel bugs, and lacewings. The parasitic wasp, Hyposoter exiguae, is believed to be the most important of at least 10 parasites attacking this pest. Sample for parasitism by pulling the heads from older caterpillars and squeezing the body contents out toward the head end. Hyposoter larvae are a light, translucent green color. Viral diseases can also be important.
Fields may be cut to avoid damage.
Organically Acceptable Methods
Biological and cultural control methods, as well as sprays of Bacillus thuringiensis (e.g., Xentari, Agree), are acceptable for use on an organically certified crop.
Monitoring and Treatment Decisions (View photos for identification of caterpillars)
In early summer start sweeping fields with adequate plant height 2 to 3 times per week to monitor for caterpillars; monitoring can be discontinued after September. Divide each field into 4 sections and take 5 sweeps per section with a 15-inch diameter sweep net, for a total of 20 sweeps. For information on sampling, see SAMPLING WITH A SWEEP NET.
Combine monitoring of armyworms with monitoring for alfalfa caterpillars and leafhoppers as described in ALFALFA CATERPILLAR AND ARMYWORM MONITORING. Count and record the number of healthy and parasitized caterpillars caught in your sweep net on a monitoring form.
If cutting is not practical or not scheduled soon after monitoring, treat if there is an average of ten or more nonparasitized alfalfa caterpillars per sweep, fifteen or more nonparasitized armyworms per sweep, or 10 or more nonparasitized alfalfa caterpillars and armyworms combined per sweep.
UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines: Alfalfa
Insects and Mites
L. D. Godfrey, Entomology, UC Davis
Acknowledgment for contributions to Insects and Mites:C. G. Summers, Entomology, Kearney Agricultural Center
M. Rethwisch, UC Cooperative Extension, Riverside County (Blythe)
D. R. Haviland, UC Cooperative Extension, Kern County