Spodoptera frugiperda (Smith, 1797)
Fall Armyworm
(formerly known as Phalaena frugiperda)
ACRONICTINAE,   NOCTUIDAE,   NOCTUOIDEA
  
Don Herbison-Evans
(donherbisonevans@outlook.com)
and
Stella Crossley

Spodoptera frugiperda
(Photo: courtesy of James Castner, University of Florida)

These Caterpillars are brown with pale dorsal and dorso-lateral lines, and rows of dark spots along the back and sides. The undersides are pale brown. The head is dark brown with an inverted 'V' marking.

The caterpillars are an international agricultural pest on crops and pastures, feeding on a variety of plants including

  • Maize ( Zea mays, POACEAE ),
  • Canola ( Brassica rapa, BRASSICACEAE ), and
  • Sorghum ( Sorghum bicolor, POACEAE ).

    Th caterpillars also attack each other. The caterpillars grow to a length of about 4 cms. They burrow into the soil below the plant where they pupate without a cocoon.

    Spodoptera frugiperda
    male
    (Photo: courtesy of Simon Ong, Kununurra, Western Australia)

    The adult moth is brown with a complex pattern of paler marks on the forewings. The males have bolder markings than the females. The hindwings are plain pearly white with narrow dark brown edges. The moth has a wingspan of about 3 cms.

    Spodoptera frugiperda
    female
    (Photo: courtesy of CSIRO/BIO Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics, University of Guelph)

    The pheromones of the species have been determined.

    Spodoptera frugiperda
    male (digitally repaired)
    (Photo: courtesy of CSIRO/BIO Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics, University of Guelph)

    Attempts to control the pest include the use of:

  • Bacillus thuringiensis Insecticidal Protein,
  • Parasitoids, and
  • Nematodes.

    Spodoptera frugiperda
    (Photo: courtesy of James Castner, University of Florida)

    The eggs are white, and laid in piles of about 100, and covered in hairs from the female's abdomen.

    The species originated in the Americas, in

  • Brazil,
  • Canada, and
  • United States of America,

    and now is found across the world in :

  • Ethiopia,
  • Ghana,
  • Korea,
  • South Africa,

    and has invaded Australia, being found, so far (July 2020), only in

  • Western Australia.


    Further reading :

    Sir James Edward Smith and John Abbott,
    The Natural History of the rarer lepidopterous insects of Georgia,
    T. Bensley (printers), London, Volume 2, pp. 191-192, and also Plate 96.


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    (written 28 July 2020)