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2 February, 2022

Fall armyworm prevalent locally

The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) has reported during the 2021-22 spring and summer, Fall armyworm (FAW) activity on the eastern Downs has increased in intensity as the season has progressed.

A large fall armyworm in a whorl. Photo, Melina Miles, Queensland Government

A spokesperson for DAF said DAF has received reports of Fall armyworm (FAW) on the eastern Darling Downs, affecting mainly sorghum and maize crops, since 2020.

“Although many early maize crops had very low or no FAW infestation, most crops planted in December 2021 and January 2022 have an infestation,” the spokesperson said.

“Producers should monitor crops for signs of damage leading to defoliation of the crop, particularly during crop emergence and establishment.

“Crop loss is most likely if seedlings are chewed off at the base by larvae that have not been detected.”

The Queensland Government advises that young larvae feed on the leaf surface, causing ‘windowing’.

In plants with whorls, such as maize and sorghum, larvae can enter the whorl and cause damage from the inside, resulting in ‘shot holes’ that become visible as the leaf unfurls.

If the damage is severe, the upper leaf can become detached.

Older larvae may also feed on roots and reproductive structures.

Eggs usually hatch in 3 to 5 days, and development though 6 instar stages to pupation takes 2–3 weeks.

Moths live for around 10 days, and a female can lay up to 1,000 eggs.

To monitor FAW, look for the egg masses and clusters of young larvae, and signs of leaf damage. 

Check in the whorl and around the plant base for larger larvae.

The latest advice about the impacts and management of fall armyworm on key crops can be found online at Business Queensland.

An overview of FAW activity across Queensland as well as information to assist producers with identifying FAW caterpillars and crop damage can be found at The Beat Sheet.

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