Fall Armyworm: The ‘Pocket-Sized Monster’ Terrifying Farmers the World Over

The fall armyworm is hungry, on the move and scaring farmers the world over, writes Jason Gale on Bloomberg.com. The crop-devouring pest has spread from the Americas to Africa and Asia, gorging on rice, corn, vegetables, cotton and more. Europe, Australia and Southeast Asia could be next. In its first three years in Africa alone, it inflicted $13.3 billion of crop losses. A recent arrival in China, the fast-moving grub may infest the country’s entire grain-producing farmland within a year. With food supply chains already facing disruption from the trade war and a global epidemic killing pigs, the world is bracing for the advance of what’s been called the “pocket-sized monster.”

1. What is the fall armyworm?

The aggressive munching can denude crops, cutting corn yields by 20-50% and sorghum by 16%. What’s more, a female moth can lay as many as 1,000 eggs during her lifetime, reproduce in a month under favorable conditions and fly up to 100 kilometers (62 miles) in a single night. Multiple generations can traverse some 2,000 kilometers during the species’ annual migration. They are so ravenous that the young caterpillars feast on their own siblings, ensuring that only 1 to 3 fully grown larvae remain on each plant.


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