Massive armyworm infestations can be impossible to control by almost all non-toxic methods. These pests all came from one square metre of grazing pasture at Melawondi.
Massive armyworm infestations can be impossible to control by almost all non-toxic methods. These pests all came from one square metre of grazing pasture at Melawondi. Contributed

Chook tractor to rid armyworms

AS armyworms continue their voracious march through our lawns and pastures, the Gympie Region invention, the chook tractor, has emerged as one possible solution.

This mobile chicken coupe that you can move patch by patch around your lawn will make short work of the grubs, converting them overnight into eggs.

Meat eating birds, from chooks to magpies, are one simple solution, provided you haven’t already resorted to synthetic poisons, which are not recommended for avian consumption.

Picking them off garden plants, including vegetables, may be alright for small scale operations, like your backyard vege patch but for farmers, like Melawondi pastoralist Chris de Vere, the enormous population density of grubs in his pastures just makes almost any control system unworkable.

With hundreds of the armyworms, or lawn grubs, in every square metre of his Mary Valley pastureland, almost nothing works except spray, which he has applied by helicopter in a desperate measure to save what winter feed he can.

But with many people concerned that bird life, or even children, could be harmed by poisons, a look at organic methods turns up some interesting results, especially if your livelihood is not at stake and you are only talking about a small area.

If the grubs don’t bother you, one website suggests doing nothing, wait for the winter and get used to all that bare brown stuff that used to be your lawn.

Encouraging frogs, lizards and even wasps can be a good idea.

Plantings of dill, fennel and brightly coloured flowers can attract those predatory stingers.

If poisoning is unavoidable, organic alternatives include a spray containing the B Thuriengiensis bacterium, which wrecks their digestive system, so you can turn the tables and give them the trots.

Organic insect sprays with pyrethrum can work but are still poisonous, even if organic.

Some say caterpillars can also be controlled with chilli and garlic spray, soapy water, or plant oil extracts.

Other gardeners recommend garden lime, salt and borax sprays.

Birds can be encouraged by setting up feeders, birdbaths or nesting boxes.

Horticultural oil during the winter can kill the eggs of second generation armyworms.

Remember, insecticides should be sprayed during the day when insects are most active and most recommend using less toxic methods first.

Gympie Times


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