Army Worms Invasion Affecting Bong County – Three Districts Invaded


 Zota District, Bong County – Danger is still lurking in Bong County as army worms in Zota District are threatening food security by reducing crop yields and spreading across Districts adjacent to the affected areas.

Report by: Selma Lomax, [email protected]

“Oh no, you have one on your collar. They’re horrible, we had them last year, but it’s probably twice as bad this year”- Arthur Kpolleh, Commissioner, Zota District

Monica Honoree, Bong County Agriculture Coordinator, speaking in an interview with reporters Saturday said the situation needs attention.

Armyworms are attacking crops, causing major damage to cassava and rice farms, FrontPageAfrica tour of the affected community has established.

In Shenpowa town, where the first cases were reported, armyworms according to residents have already destroyed 6,500 hectares of crops.

Despite measures to prevent the spread, cases of armyworms were Saturday, July 16, 2016 confirmed in three of the county’s 15 Districts. Farmers in the remaining Districts have been advised to take precautions as the pest could spread to the whole county.

Government to the rescue

The government is helping farmers to spray their fields in an effort to contain the armyworms. Insecticides are being distributed, and Ministry of Agriculture technicians have been out helping to spray the crops.

However, reports have now suggested that the free supply of cypermethrin, the chemical that has been sent out, has run out in Zota. Farmers therefore have to buy the insecticides themselves while they wait for further supplies from the government.

There have been calls from the Zota Farmers’ Association for more investment into the research and early warning systems in order to prevent severe outbreaks in the future.

The organization, alongside the leadership of Bong County and the Agriculture Local Office, has also been sensitizing farmers about the outbreak.

The armyworms found in Zota have a velvety black back, a greenish yellow underside and pale stripes down its side.

They are an important pest due to the number of food crop hosts and the levels of devastation they can cause, which is why the Zota Farmers’ Association is keen to prompt armyworm research.

Experts are currently visiting different fields, assessing the damage caused by the pest and monitoring the spraying process. It remains to be seen how effective the control methods are in Zota.

In the meantime, maize farmers have been advised to start re-planting their fields with early-maturing seeds.

Army worms munching their way across Bong

Some think they’re cool, others say they’re gross. While opinions on the army worms seem to vary, there is one thing no one seems to dispute — the little buggers are everywhere.

Estimated by experts to number in the billions, they’re wiggling and munching their way across Bong County and Panta and Sanoyea Districts are no exception.

Trees they plague, consuming leaves and coating branches like a moving bark, but nothing is out of reach: they cover mailboxes, parking lots, walls and even people can’t seem to escape.

“Oh no, you have one on your collar,” cried Arthur Kpolleh, Commissioner of Zota District.  “They’re horrible,” Kpolleh said. “We had them last year, but it’s probably twice as bad this year.”

With a shudder of disgust, Kpolleh agreed and said their numbers were staggering. There were so many in the District last week that it was nearly impossible to walk without stepping on one.

“It’s a blanket of caterpillars attacking almost all the farms in the District,” Kpolleh said with a laugh.

Beatrice Bedell, a farmer whose farm was destroyed by the caterpillars agrees that this year’s caterpillar crop seems extraordinarily large.

“They are acting different this year this year,” Bedell said. “We sold out of our products real quick. We had to get more shipments in.’

Meanwhile, army worms are said to be wreaking havoc on trees across Panta and Sanoyea District. Residents of Panta and Sanoyea Districts called the extension office last week to report that their farms were decimated.

One of the residents in Panta District said alder trees near his home were hit hard, and that the caterpillars have turned to other more precious fare. “We’re not going to have many (alders) left in our neighborhood,” the Panta resident said. “Trouble with that is they drop off onto my apple trees.”

Another Panta resident only identified as Jerry said most trees, even those stripped bare, will probably survive the onslaught to sprout new leaves.

There are some free alternatives to combating the caterpillars, though Madam Honoree recommends against burning, and questions the effectiveness of home remedies, such as pouring diluted dish soap around the base of a tree in an attempt to sour the taste of its leaves.

“A very good method is the squish method,” Honoree said with laughter. Other than that, there’s not much to do but live with them until the cycle comes to an end, she said.

Honoree said she expects the season will wind down over the next few weeks. The Bong County Agriculture Coordinator said that trees will survive the damage. She recommends giving younger trees more water.

As for Charles King, an expert at the Central Agriculture Research Institute (CARI), he’s lived through many past caterpillar invasions and while this one seems exceptionally large, in reality it hasn’t been much more than a headache.

The caterpillars have now proven to appear in the county on a seasonal basis since 2009 when it first appeared there and caused more damage than the current.