Egg -- Minute, light gray eggs are laid in clusters and are covered with grayish, fuzzy scales from the body of the female moth. The eggs become very dark just before hatching.
Larva -- The mature green, brown, or black larva, 35 to 50 mm long, has a dark head usually marked with a pale, but distinct, inverted "Y." Along each side of its body is a longitudinal, black stripe. There are four black dots on the dorsal side of each abdominal segment.
Pupa -- The pupa, approximately 30 mm long, is originally reddish-brown and darkens to black as it matures.
Host Plants -- The fall armyworm has a wide host range but prefers plants in the grass family. Most grasses, including coastal Bermudagrass, fescue, ryegrass, bluegrass, Johnsongrass, timothy, corn, sorghum, Sudangrass, and small grain crops, are subject to infestation.
Damage -- Fall armyworms, often migrating in large armies, are potential turf and pasture pests in late summer and fall. Consuming all above-ground plant parts, they are capable of killing or severely retarding the growth of grasses.
Life History -- Fall armyworms probably overwinter as pupae in the Gulf Coast region of this country. Egg-laying moths migrate northward throughout the spring and summer and arrive in North Carolina during mid-July. New moths may continue to appear into November. Each female lays about 1,000 eggs in masses of 50 to several hundred. Two to 10 days later the small larvae emerge, feed gregariously on the remains of the egg mass, then scatter in search of food. Unlike the nocturnal true armyworms, fall armyworms feed any time of the day or night, but are most active early in the morning or late in the evening. When abundant, these caterpillars eat all the food at hand and then crawl in great armies to adjoining fields. After feeding for 2 to 3 weeks, the larvae dig about 20 mm into the ground to pupate. Within 2 weeks, a new swarm of moths emerges and usually flies several miles before laying eggs. Several generations occur each year in North Carolina.