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Western Yellow Striped (Spodoptera praefica) - 13 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Armyworms on Plants

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13 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Armyworms on Plants

The name is given quite aptly here. If you see an armyworm, then there may be hundreds more to follow.

This is not exactly ideal news, as they can cause extensive crop damage [1]. If you’ve never seen an armyworm before, we’ll show you precisely what to look for as well as how to get rid of them if you do find that you’ve got an infestation.

So let’s assume that you’ve discovered these leaf-eating pests in your precious garden. Now what?

How do you repel or kill them without damaging your plants or the beneficial insects you want to keep around?

Here’s how to get rid of armyworms naturally:

1. Manually Remove Them

This is one of the best organic options to remove these caterpillars from your garden.

Physically go through your garden and remove the armyworm eggs and the armworms by hand as you find them. Squish or drop them in hot, soapy water.

2. Spinosad

One of the best insecticides for armyworms and other types of destructive pests in your garden is Spinosad.

Spinosad kills army worms and other soft-bodied pests naturally. This liquid insecticide is also safe to use on organic crops.

3. Parasitic Wasps

You can always introduce parasitic wasps into your garden. There are a few species you can choose from, such as braconid wasps and Trichogramma wasps.

These wasps attack armyworms and other caterpillars and destroy them.

3. Neem Oil

You can also use neem oil for armyworms. It is a classic pest control treatment used by many organic gardeners.

Neem oil is entirely natural and utterly safe for external use on crops. You can also use this organic pesticide on houseplants. It both deters and kills an immense variety of insect pests.

To make a killer homemade army worm spray, combine 2 tablespoons of neem oil and 2 teaspoons of liquid soap with a gallon of water.

Next, pour the mixture into a spray container and coat your plants. The liquid soap will make the solution stick to the plant for longer.

Alternatively, buy a product containing neem oil and apply it according to the instructions on the container.

Moreover, when used correctly, this home remedy is safe to use around dogs, cats, and pets in general.

4. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)

Bt will kill certain pests, such as small armyworm larvae, other leaf-eating caterpillars, and needle-eating caterpillars.

To control armyworms, use it according to the instructions that come with your purchase. Reapply after heavy rains.

5. Regularly Check for Eggs 

Perform regular checkups on your garden, and especially keep an eye out for moth eggs. They are small and normally laid in clusters or rows on the leaves.

As soon as you spot them, slide the eggs off the leaves and crush them between your fingers.

6. Soap and Water

Combine one ounce of Dawn dish soap with a gallon of water. If you do not use that brand, any liquid soap will do.

Shake well and apply the soapy water solution to your lawn to stimulate lawn armyworms’ movement to the surface. This way, natural predators like birds can catch and eat them.

Another method is to suffocate the armyworms. As you go around picking them off, carry a bucket full of hot, soapy water. Pick the critters off your plants and drop them into the bucket to suffocate and kill them.

7. Turn the Soil 

As you near the end of the gardening season, be prepared to till and turn up the soil to expose any pupae and/or eggs that might be hiding.

This will reveal the critters to hungry predators in the area.

8. Birds

Set out little dishes or birdbaths filled with water. This may invite birds in, and they’ll notice the little destructive pests you’ve got crawling around your yard.

Some plants may also invite in birds. Plants that attract birds include coneflowers, ivy, sunflowers, and honeysuckles.

Most birds will choose caterpillars over crops any day, so do all you can to invite them in. Robins and starlings eat armyworms, and other birds might too.

9. Garlic and Pepper Spray

Using such spices as garlic and hot peppers in water, you can make a homemade repellent spray that works wonders against army worms.

Blend 4 cloves of garlic and 2 hot peppers in two cups of water. Let the mixture steep overnight.

Afterwards, strain and spray the solution on the caterpillars. This DIY armyworm insecticide will kill the pests.

10. Beneficial Nematodes

Beneficial nematodes will also help keep army worms away. They will zone in on armyworm larvae and subdue and eliminate the threat.

Plus, they’ll stick around to help prevent other soil-dwelling pests from taking over.

11. Beneficial Insects

This could be one of your better options for getting rid of armyworms. By luring in or releasing insects that eat other soft-bodied insects and related pests, you’re saving yourself a lot of trouble.

Along with parasitic wasps, ground beetles and earwigs are also great natural predators for armyworms. Additionally, minute pirate bugs, ladybugs, and lacewings feed on armyworm eggs.

12. Wood Ash and Chili Powder

To help control armyworms in maize, some African farmers have had success mixing 5 teaspoons of chili powder with a 2kg container of wood ash.

After combining properly, they then shake the mixture into leaf whorls. This remedy burns and kills the critters.

13. Vinegar

Some gardeners have had success using vinegar to kill caterpillars, so it may very well work for this purpose.

Just mix 2 tablespoons of white vinegar with 4 liters of water and spray it directly on armyworms.

Types of Armyworms 

There are several kinds of army worms, and scientists estimate that well over half of them are severely destructive to all crops in general. And with so many different species, it’s important to tell them apart from one another.

1. Beet (Spodoptera exigua)

Beet armyworm (Spodoptera exigua)Image via Michasia Dowdy, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org

The beet armyworm is native to Southeast Asia but is found in other parts of the world, in countries like North America and Jamaica.

The older caterpillars are green to black, with dark green pigmentation running along their sides. The beet armyworm is also known as the asparagus fern caterpillar.

They will feed on scallion (green onion), alfalfa, citrus, grasses, corn, ferns, and ornamental plants. These peste also feed on cabbage, legumes, tomato plants, pepper plants, peas, potatoes, sugar beets, soybeans, sunflowers, other vegetables, and weeds.

2. Western Yellow Striped (Spodoptera praefica)

Western Yellow Striped (Spodoptera praefica)Image via cbc.ca

The Western Yellow Striped Armyworm, which, just as the name implies, is dark in color with two narrow yellow lines.

It is commonly found in Columbia, Utah, and California.

They generally feed on tomato plants, rice, corn, potatoes, pepper fruits, sugar beets, alfalfa, and sweet potatoes.

3. Yellow-striped (Spodoptera ornithogalli)

Yellowstriped (Spodoptera ornithogalli)Photo by Scott Housten – Flickr

This one can be found all around the northeastern regions of the US and Canada. However, they have been spotted out west as well, so be vigilant.

It has a much darker body color than Spodoptera praefica, and its markings are also sharper.

Spodoptera ornithogalli commonly feeds on soybeans, tobacco, corn, tomatoes, cotton, and alfalfa.

4. Common (Mythimna unipuncta)

Common Armyworm (Mythimna unipuncta)Image via pyrgus.de

They are grayish-brown or grayish-green in color, with four large dark spots on the underside of their bodies.

They are a significant menace throughout North, South, and Central America and are also common in western Asia, southern Europe, and central Africa.

The common or true armyworm generally feeds on grass, oats, barley, wheat, and other seed crops.

5. Southern (Spodoptera eridania)

Southern Armyworm (Spodoptera eridania)Image via alchetron.com

Dark green with a brownish head and normally prominent yellow or white stripes. Commonly found closer to the southern border, with occasional pop-ups further north and east.

You’ll likely find these pests on tomato plants. Other plants commonly affected are cassava, capsicum, cotton, sweet potatoes, legumes, maize, and tobacco.

6. African (Spodoptera exempta)

African Armyworm (Spodoptera exempta)Picture via downtoearth.org.in

Featuring a mottled body with varying shades of green and brown, it is a major threat to crops in both Africa and Europe.

The species mostly targets corn. However, they also eat other crops such as rice, sugarcane, wheat, vegetables, sorghum, millet, and coconut.

7. Fall (Spodoptera frugiperda)

Fall Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) - Armyworm: 11 Natural Ways to Get Rid of ThemPhoto via plantix.net

The fall armyworm has a dark head and varies in color from light tan to black.

Infestation is a major threat in countries like Myanmar, Bangladesh, China, Jamaica, Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Egypt, Japan, and Korea.

Some of the plants affected include maize, cotton, vegetables, rice, millet, sorghum, hayfields, sugarcane, and the fruits of some trees. They’ll also invade pastures.

8. Northern (Mythimna separata)

Northern Armyworm (Mythimna separata)Similar to the common armyworm, which has nearly identical markings, these differ, with their stripes becoming more pronounced as they age.

They mainly eat corn, sorghum, barley, rice, and wheat.

9. Lawn (Spodoptera mauritia)

Lawn Armyworm (Spodoptera mauritia)Image via lawngreen.com.au

Common throughout India, Australia, the Malayan Peninsula, and the Pacific Islands, the lawn armyworm starts off with a pale green color.

It then develops a dark green back with white and brown stripes at its sides. This type mainly feeds on lawn grasses, oats, and barley.

See also: 13 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Cabbage Worms


The key to stopping an armyworm infestation is to be extremely vigilant about your garden and spot the minuscule signs before they become a problem that will be too big to deal with.

Once you’ve spotted the critters, pick an army worm treatment or home remedy from the list above to get rid of them.

Andre Campbell

Organic farmer and co-founder of Dre Campbell Farm. He appreciates everything in nature—sunshine, plants, animals, and human life.

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