Fast Facts on Fall armyworm

Fall Armyworm

A hungry, hungry caterpillar

It’s not a worm. It’s a caterpillar that grows into a moth. This means it can travel far once it reaches the adult stage.

100 km per night

The adult moth can travel over 100 kilometres per night, and with the help of a good wind it has been known to travel more than 1,000 kilometres in 30 hours.

1,000s of eggs per female. In the adult stage, the Fall armyworm reproduces quickly.

80 plant species make up the menu for this hungry, hungry caterpillar. This includes key staples, like maize, millet, sorghum, rice, and wheat, as well as sugar cane and vegetables. These are all important crops for both farming families and farming businesses.

Maize is a staple food for millions of small-scale farmers — and for the Fall armyworm. Young caterpillars like to feed on the leaves, and can eat the growing point of the plant. Older caterpillars will bore into the cob.

$13 billion US: the predicted losses in maize, sorghum, rice, and sugar cane that African farmers will experience this year. Small but devastating for sure.

An invader from the Americas

The Fall armyworm originates in the tropical and sub-tropical regions of North and South America. It was first reported in West Africa in early 2016.

There is another armyworm that is native to Africa. The African armyworm generally attacks the leaves of the plant, causing crop losses, but not total harvest loss. The Fall armyworm is more destructive. Feeding on young plants, it can kill the growing point, and feeding on older plants, it can burrow its way into the cob and eat the kernels.

26 African countries

The Fall armyworm has been spotted in 26 African countries as of May 2017.

Information is key.

The Fall armyworm is not native to Africa, and recommendations for managing the invasive pest are evolving. Researchers are involved and a regional plan is being developed by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

This makes information a key tool in slowing the devastation caused by the Fall armyworm. Farmers need the right information to identify the Fall armyworm, and to distinguish it from other pests such as the African armyworm, African bollworm, tomato moth caterpillar, and maize stem borer. And, as researchers formulate pest management plans, these need to be communicated to farmers as well.

Researchers and policymakers also need information from farmers to track the path of this voracious caterpillar and to tally up the losses left in its wake.

Farm Radio International is supporting farmers in a variety of ways, largely through information sharing and connecting broadcasters to experts in their region.
We can reach more than 100 million farmers through our network of broadcasters in sub-Saharan Africa.

Learn more about the Fall armyworm through CABI, the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International:

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