Town of Marilla, NY - It's a farmer's worst nightmare, and the problem continues to spread. On Wednesday 2 On Your Side reported on the armyworm, and they're eating crops that are nearly ready to be harvested.
Although they are called armyworms, they're actually caterpillars and they are on the mission to eat as much grass plants as they can before they turn into moths. Since arriving in western New York recently, the local office of the Cornell Cooperative Extension is trying to pin-point where they came from.
"I'm thinking south of Illinois, Georgia, maybe towards Texas. We don't have a good idea. Its just the southern states in general that they tend to over winter in," said Sharon Bachman who is the Community Educator For Agriculture, at the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Erie County.
What is known is that these pests did come here as moths, and laid millions of eggs all over western New York. Experts say our mild winter and early spring played a significant role.
"The weather conditions were right for them to move maybe earlier or further north then they typically would," said Bachman.
She went on to say that armyworms are also picky eaters.
"Alfalfa or clover, they don't eat that. They're specific to their grass host plants," said Bachman.
Unfortunately for one farmer in the Town of Marilla, armyworms have destroyed a good portion of his wheat crop in just 2 days. Leonard Janiga is forced to buy chemicals costing $10 per acre just to save the rest of his 105-acre farm.
"It hurts and you know you can't figure this in. There's no way cause you didn't plan on it. So you just got to do it because if we didn't touch this filed, in a day or two they'd be nothing left," said Janiga.
As armyworms continue heading northeast looking for food the state's local branches of Cornell Cooperative Extensions are doing what they can for non-farming homeowners.
"They've also been known to move across some of our lawns so we're trying to figure out with our turf grass people across the state what is the answer if a homeowner is seeing problems as well with their lawns," said Bachman.
An armyworm expert told 2 On Your Side, the reason why these pests are flourishing is because as they migrated north they left behind their natural enemy which is a type of wasp.
This problem is expected to last in Western New York another 2 or 3 more weeks.