Caterpillar (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) Feeding on Pasture Grasses in Central Florida

Robert L. Meagher, Paul Mislevy, Rodney N. Nagoshi


Stargrasses (Cynodon nlemfuensis Vanderyst var. nlemfuensis) and bermudagrasses (C. dactylon (L.) Persoon) are important warm-season forage grasses, with several cultivars developed for conditions found in central and southern Florida. Major insect pests of these grasses include grass loopers (Mocis spp.) and fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda (J. E. Smith)), which annually may impose economic losses for beef cattle and hay producers. Population studies conducted during a 3-year period showed that both species had similar profiles with respect to larval population seasonality but not abundance. Plot studies with 4 stargrass and 4 bermudagrass lines showed that higher grass looper populations were found in stargrasses than bermudagrasses. Laboratory studies found grass loopers and fall armyworm larvae generally developed faster with larger weights on lines of stargrass than lines of bermudagrass. The two fall armyworm host strains also can differ substantially in their larval weight, developmental time, and survivability when grown on different lines of grasses. These results indicate that the selection of pasture grasses made by growers can significantly and differentially affect the population densities of these grass defoliators.

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