Roots, Shoots, Fruits & Flowers: Banded Sphinx Moth, Armyworm Eggs, Chamberbitter and Bermudagrass


Caterpillar of the banded sphinx moth. Photo: Diannarae’ Hebert.

Banded Sphinx Moth

“I spotted this 5-inch long caterpillar in my yard and could not find it on the ID chart. Would you be able to tell me what the name of this is?” asked Diannarae’. She also sent in a very clear image of a colorful caterpillar.

Ms. Victoria Bayless, Curator of the LA State Arthropod Museum (LSAM) made a positive identification as the “banded sphinx moth” or BSM. According to the website of NC State Extension, “Banded sphinx caterpillars feed on evening primrose, Fuchsia, grape (and related plants in the genus Cissus), magnolia, Virginia creeper, water primrose, and water purslane. Moths sip nectar from whatever flowers they find in the evening and night.” Even though insecticides can control these caterpillars, BSM caterpillars are rarely a problem in the landscape.


Egg mass of armyworms. Photo: Joe Armetta.

Armyworm Eggs

Joe sent an email with some images of “brown spots” and asked, “[I] noticed these brown spots on siding all around house…[They] seem to be pockets of eggs??? Any idea what they are? Thanks- Joe.”

The best estimate of what Joe is seeing on his home are egg masses of armyworms. Usually fresh egg masses are white, but these dark eggs are about to hatch into tiny armyworms and then eventually become the large, damaging caterpillars so AHA recommended, “Because of the widespread infestations of armyworms, let me encourage you to destroy those egg masses.” Joe promptly responded, “Thanks for the info… [I] Will get rid of them ASAP…Appreciate your assistance.”


A close-up image of chamberbitter. Photo: Lee Rouse, LSU AgCenter.


Jean sent an email about an especially abundant weed, “Mr. Allen [ a Master Gardener] told me that the plant taking over was chamberbitter. I will check my weed killer and see if it will kill it and how much I need to use.”

First, Jean learned the name of the weed and then intends to read the label of her herbicide before treating for her weed. Her approach is the correct way to address any pest issue.

Lee Rouse, a professional horticulturist, prescribed this treatment for chamberbitter, “If you are able to apply herbicide just to the foliage of the chamberbitter without getting it on the nearby desirable plants, then you can use glyphosate (Eraser, Killzall, Roundup, Grass and Weed Killer). If a desirable plant is nearby, you may consider protecting them. Use a shield when spraying or cover nearby ornamentals with plastic sheeting or bags to prevent the spray from getting on them. If the herbicide gets on the foliage of desirable ornamentals, it will damage or kill them.

Once the weeds have been cleaned out of a bed by hand weeding or glyphosate, thoroughly mulch the bed with 2 inches of mulch to minimize new weeds showing up. The mulch will suppress the germination of the chamberbitter seeds in the soil. The thickness of the much is important for effective control. Using 2-4 inches of pine bark or 4-6 inches of pine straw will work best for weed suppression.”


Front page of an AgCenter publication about Bermudagrass.


Melissa from Jena asked a landscape question, “We recently built a home on our family farm in LaSalle parish. We are having our yard graded. We would like to plant Bermuda. I would think the dirt work would be finished soon. Should we seed or sod? Use a pre-emerge or fertilizer? Any info would he most appreciated! Thank you!”

Before you invest in establishing turf, let encourage you to obtain a soil sample kit from the AgCenter in Jena Courthouse. After you obtain your soil analysis, you will also have recommendations for fertilizing and liming.

Fertilizing is important because bermudagrass responds very well to this treatment and will enable successful establishment of your grassy yard.

Sodding is expensive, and you can seed, plug or sprig Bermudagrass at less expense. Here is an AgCenter publication about bermudagrass turf: “Louisiana Home Lawn Series: Bermudagrass”. This document is a free, downloadable reference for homeowners who want to establish and maintain Bermudagrass.

If you want to contact Roots, Shoots, Fruits and Flowers, please send your questions and pictures to Keith Hawkins, Area Horticulture Agent (AHA), 337-463-7006 or Also, you can be on the “green thumbs” email list by emailing your request to the address above.

“Before you buy or use an insecticide product, first read the label, and strictly follow label recommendations. Mention of trade names or commercial products in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute endorsement by Louisiana State University AgCenter.”

“This work has been supported, in part, by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Renewable Resources Extension Act Award, Accession Number 1011417.”

9/29/2021 8:10:48 PM
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