The fall armyworm moth is among the most notorious pests in the Americas and it has recently invaded southern Africa.
In its larval stage, the rapacious pest has been compared to the locust for its devastating impact on crops. It also breeds rapidly and is difficult to detect.
Large appetite – Armyworm caterpillars are devastating maize plants in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi, where it is a staple food crop.
Hardy travelers – The armyworm in adult form is a formidable traveler. In North America, the species migrates from Florida to Canada, raising fears they could spread widely across Africa.
Bad timing – The outbreak is particularly harmful as the region is still recovering from a severe recent drought that left millions food-insecure.
Army vs armyworm – The Zambian government has responded by bombing the pests with pesticides, although experts have questions whether the chemicals are effective.