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Fall Armyworm Moth (Spodoptera frugiperda)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Fall Armyworm Moth.

 Updated: 1/24/2020; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.InsectIdentification.org




Variations in color coupled with sexual dimorphism mean a handful of Fall Armyworm Moths can line up, and none of them are identical.



The male and female moth for this species look different from each other. The female is more gray than brown. The male is more brown than gray. Both have bean-shaped reniform spots on the lower part of the forewing. A short, pale line may be present above this spot, but it does not pass beyond the major vein on the outer edge. An elliptical or tight oval ring or spot is on the upper part of the forewing. It may be filled in with white, orange, or brown coloring. Besides the distinct spots and lines, females tend to be uniform in color, but males can have mottled white, brown, gray, and orange patches all over. This makes it difficult to recognize it unless one is familiar with this species' variations.

The Fall Armyworm, its caterpillar, is a notorious pest. It eats a variety of grasses and crop plants, which means it ruins turf and food production. Peanut, rice, soybean, sugarcane, alfalfa, cotton, and corn are some of the victims of the Fall Armyworm's feasting. Many generations can be produced in one year, so an area can be defoliated over the course of a season. There are many instars to this caterpillar and its appearance changes. One instar has an orange head, a black upper body with yellow lines and specks, and a yellow belly. Another is green with a black head. It can also appear brown with a lighter, yellow stripe on the 'back' that is dotted with dark spots, each growing a short black hair.

This caterpillar is active from late summer through the fall season in the north, but it is active year-round in the southern part of its range. Moths migrate north when the weather warms and help establish populations there. Look for clusters of white or pale yellow eggs covered with fuzz on the underside of leaves. Planting early in the season allows a crop to get harvested before the caterpillars are in force. Chemical and biological controls are commonly implemented to manage infestations when they occur.

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Taxonomic Hierarchy
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Noctuidae
          Genus: Spodoptera
            Species: frugiperda
Identifying Information
Scientific Name: Spodoptera frugiperda
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 16mm to 19mm (0.62in to 0.74in)
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: brown; tan; black gray
Descriptors: oval spot; ring; bean-shaped; dash; line; flying; multicolored; sexually dimorphic; mottled
Territorial Map
Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
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Territorial Reach (A-to-Z)
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming
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Alberta
British Columbia
Manitoba
New Brunswick
Newfoundland and Labrador
Nova Scotia
Ontario
Prince Edward Island
Quebec
Saskatchewan
Mexican National Flag Graphic
Mexico
Note: An insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above as they are driven by environmental factors (such as climate change), available food supplies and mating patterns. Grayed-out selections indicate that the subject in question has not been reported in that particular territory. U.S. states and Canadian provinces / territories are clickable to their respective bug listings.




Butterfly and Moth Anatomy
Graphic showing basic anatomy of a common North American butterfly and moth insect
1
Antennae: Butterflies and Moths have a pair of antennae on the head used as sensors.
2
Head: The head is home to the insect's eyes, antennae, and proboscis.
3
Thorax: Home to the three pairs of legs as well as vital internal organs.
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Abdomen: Contains vital internal organs such as the heart(s) and reproduction facilities.
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Forewing: The upper, forward wing pair used for flying.
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Hindwing: The lower, rearward wing pair used for flying.
NOTE: Butterflies and Moths are part of the Lepidopteran order as they share many similarities.