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Some are reminded of Hitchcocks horror film - The Birds, when huge swarms of dusty colored moths appear everywhere they look. The explanation of this phenomenon is simple. The invasions of armyworms and cutworms into the Midwest that caused damage to crops and turfgrass earlier this spring is now manifesting itself as a flush of brownish-gray night flying moths everywhere.
These moths are especially active in the early evening hours where they fly from vegetation across roads, lawns and towards porch lights. Some are concerned about the thousands that are 'splatting' on car windshields (motorcyclists have a bigger concern), others are concerned about the numbers that are finding their way into homes, and still others are concerned about the thousands that are resting on trees and other vegetation during the day.
Rest assured that these moths are not the damaging stage of this insect. They do not bite people nor damage homes or plants. They are mostly just a nuisance pest because of their high numbers right now. We expect their numbers to decrease dramatically after about 10 days or two weeks time. It is not possible to tell for sure whether or not a second generation will appear but all reports suggest that it will not be nearly as large as the present generation. Reports from the agriculture industry are that caterpillars dying from naturally occurring diseases and parasites are already at work. Allowing these controls to continue will help assure that the next generation will be moderate. Until then, be patient, keep doors and windows screened and porch light off unless needed, and recognize that the moths are not a health threat (unless you ride a motorcycle).
Also, you may wish to view the past "What's Hot" article on "Armyworms, Armyworms, Armyworms."
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Last updated: 24 June 2001/tlm.
The Plant & Pest Diagnostic Laboratory at Purdue University.