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Are These Armyworms??

Mike Stanyard, Team Leader, Field Crops
Northwest New York Dairy, Livestock & Field Crops

March 1, 2013
Are These Armyworms??

The last week of February I received multiple calls about worms crawling on top of the snow. Most of the calls came from Yates and Seneca counties but I'm sure this strange event occurred in other areas across the region. Many were concerned that they were armyworms overwintering from the "2012 Armyworm Invasion". This goes to show how bad the armyworms were this past year and the damage they caused has not been forgotten. Many callers reported that seagulls were feeding on the caterpillars and were the first indication that something was out on the snow.

Were these armyworms? No. Armyworms do not overwinter here in NY. It is too cold for this species to survive. New adult moths migrate from the south every year to lay eggs and repopulate the northeast. These caterpillars looked and acted very similar to armyworms so it was a good first guess!

So what were they? These beasts were winter cutworms. Yes, there are species of cutworms that overwinter in the larval stage here in NY. We are more familiar with its close cousin the black cutworm. The black cutworm, like the armyworm, does not overwinter here in NY. The winter cutworms I have seen this year range in color from green to a dark brown. This cutworm has a series of black dashes running down the top of its back. While most of the reports have been of large worms over two inches, a few have been smaller.

Why were they on top of the snow? The warmer temperatures had them feeding on plants under the snow. The ones I had in a container overnight had lots of frass (bug poop) in the bottom. We had some rains that compacted the snow and made it very heavy. In addition, the water sat on top of the ground because the ground was frozen and had nowhere to go. Between the saturated conditions and the heavy snow, the cutworms had to escape on top of the snow.

Winter cutworms do not have the pest status that their cousins uphold. They are one of a very few cold-tolerant insects that can come out during the winter months. They do the majority of their feeding in the late fall but can stay active on warmer days throughout the winter feeding under the snow. I had other calls in January during our first thaw and reports of worms crawling across driveways and into farm buildings. This mass movement is also very reminiscent of armyworm behavior. There are definitely more winter cutworms overwintering this year than I've ever seen before.

Will they cause damage to agricultural crops this spring? We normally do not consider this cutworm to be of any economic importance to crops. They do feed on a wide variety of hosts. A few years ago, I had one feeding on my spider plant I had brought inside for the fall. There is a possibility that with the high numbers we are seeing this winter that some small areas of winter wheat, pastures, or hay fields could have seen localized feeding damage late last fall and over the winter. There are very few reported cases of economic damage associated with this insect. It is very unlikely that we would have to spray an insecticide to control winter cutworm larvae this spring.











calendar of events

Upcoming Events

Dairy Cattle Summer Research Update

July 18, 2019
Batavia, NY

After the day's work is done, come hear about two new research trials conducted by Julio Giordano's lab:
  • Strategies for improving dairy cattle reproductive performance and economics
  • Using automated sensors for improving dairy cattle health monitoring and management

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Weed Resistance Management Demonstration and Plot Tour

Event Offers DEC Credits

July 23, 2019
1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Waterloo, NY

Come join us on July 23 in Seneca County at Quinten Good's farm for a demonstration and walking tour of 16 different pre- and post-emergence treatments in soybean and 12 different treatments and combinations in corn.
  • Tall waterhemp and marestail are two weeds that are resistant to glyphosate and ALS herbicide modes of action in the WNY and Finger Lakes regions.
  • Each year the number of acres with resistant weed populations expands.
  • For herbicides to be an effective tool in weed management, we have to know what chemistries & application timings are most effective against these resistant weeds.

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Income and Real Property Tax Primer-A Learning Circle for Women Non-Operating Land Owners of Ag Land

July 24, 2019
9:00 am - 3:00 pm
Portageville, NY

For many of us taxes can be a mystery, let's have a conversation with the experts about the tax considerations agricultural landowners need to think about. 
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RMA Announces Additional One-time Changes to Prevented Planting Provisions

June 29, 2019

RMA Announces Additional One-time Changes to Prevented Planting Provisions
for 2019 Crop Year

In response to delayed and prevented planting resulting from above average rainfall and wetness, the USDA Risk Management Agency has made a one-time change to the 2019 crop year prevented planting rules that effectively allows silage corn, if planted as a cover crop following local agricultural expert guidelines, to be acceptable as a post-prevented planting cover crop. Under this one-time rule change, producers are allowed to produce this crop while retaining their prevented planting payment. This change couples with previously announced one-time changes to the prevented planting rules - including expanded acceptable uses for post-prevented planting cover crops and a change in the cover crop haying and grazing start date rule - serve to help those struggling to meet their forage needs due to the weather.

Read the full article from the New York Crop Insurance Education Program.

The USDA-RMA states that "For crop insurance purposes, a cover crop is a crop generally recognized by agricultural experts as agronomically sound for the area for erosion control or other purposes related to conservation or soil improvement." PRO-DAIRY specialists Joe Lawrence and Karl Czymmek and Dr. Quirine Ketterings, Professor and Director of Cornell Nutrient Management Spear Program have released a letter stating "Corn on Prevented Planting acres meets these objectives."

USDA Announces New Decision Tool for New Dairy Margin Coverage Program

WASHINGTON, April 30, 2019 ? Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced today the availability of a new web-based tool - developed in partnership with the University of Wisconsin - to help dairy producers evaluate various scenarios using different coverage levels through the new Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program.

The 2018 Farm Bill authorized
DMC, a voluntary risk management program that offers financial protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all milk price and the average feed cost (the margin) falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer. It replaces the program previously known as the Margin Protection Program for Dairy. Sign up for this USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) program opens on June 17.

"With sign-up for the
DMC program just weeks away, we encourage producers to use this new support tool to help make decisions on participation in the program," Secretary Perdue said. "Dairy producers have faced tough challenges over the years, but the DMC program should help producers better weather the ups and downs in the industry."

The University of Wisconsin launched the decision support tool in cooperation with FSA and funded through a cooperative agreement with the USDA Office of the Chief Economist. The tool was designed to help producers determine the level of coverage under a variety of conditions that will provide them with the strongest financial safety net. It allows farmers to simplify their coverage level selection by combining operation data and other key variables to calculate coverage needs based on price projections.

The decision tool assists producers with calculating total premiums costs and administrative fees associated with participation in
DMC. It also forecasts payments that will be made during the coverage year.

The new Dairy Margin Coverage program offers very appealing options for all dairy farmers to reduce their net income risk due to volatility in milk or feed prices," said Dr. Mark Stephenson, Director of Dairy Policy Analysis, University of Wisconsin, Madison. "Higher coverage levels, monthly payments, and more flexible production coverage options are especially helpful for the sizable majority of farms who can cover much of their milk production with the new five million pound maximum for Tier 1 premiums. This program deserves the careful consideration of all dairy farmers."

For more information, access the tool at For
DMC sign up, eligibility and related program information, visit or contact your local USDA Service Center. To locate your local FSA office, visit

New Guidance for Mortality Disposal Issued

NYS Department of Ag and Markets has posted guidelines on disposal of livestock carcasses, in response to reports that some rendering companies have halted pickups from farms.|1