Zimbabwe: African Armyworm Hits Mashonaland Provinces

(File photo).
13 December 2019

Farmers in Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland West provinces have been urged to be on the lookout for an African Army-worm outbreak following results of trap catches recorded in the past week.

Head of the Department of Plant Quarantine and Plant Protection Services in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement, Mr Shingirayi Nyamutukwa said farmers should be on the lookout as the African army worm is more destructive than the fall army-worm.

"The army-worm can wipe out the whole crop during the night if not controlled on time, as it has a monster appetite for foliage. The pest feeds on maize leaves devouring whole plants and can also feed on pastures.

"African Army-worm outbreaks occasionally occur in Zimbabwe with the pest attacking cereals like maize, sorghum and millet. The caterpillars move in large numbers causing losses of up to 100 percent.

"Farmers should therefore continue to scout their field crops and any pests' presence should be reported to the nearest Agritex or Plant Quarantine and Plant Protection Services offices nearby.

"Reports of African Army-worm outbreaks have been recorded from our neighbouring Zambia hence a likelihood of outbreaks occurring in Zimbabwe," he said.

The pest originated from Zambia, Uganda or Tanzania and is carried by strong winds from one area to another. The armyworm is the larvae stage of a moth that is common in Southern Africa.

The moth is easily identified by the colour of its wings which are dark brown with black spots, while hind wings are white with dark edges. The migratory moths travel in multitudes and cover long distances during the night. They can cross national boundaries within a short period while being driven by winds.

Experts note that the moths follow humid areas and lay eggs at a very fast rate. A female can lay up to 800 eggs within five weeks. Young armyworms are small and it is hard to see them, but the best time to check for the pest is in the morning or evening.

Armyworm caterpillars are most dangerous when in their gregarious form when they gather together in large numbers on plants. In this form, the caterpillars are 30mm long and have dark stripes that make them appear black.

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