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Spodoptera is a genus of moths that contains 30 species worldwide. There are 10 species in North America. Larvae of this species are commonly known as armyworms. Adults are known as armyworm moths. (Nendick-Mason, 2004)

What do they look like?

Armyworm moths are greyish or brownish colored. They normally have patterns. In some species of this genus, males and females look the same. In other species, sexes may have different patterns. (Lafontaine and Schmidt, 2010; Wagner, et al., 2011)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • sexes colored or patterned differently

Where do they live?

Armyworm moths are nearly cosmopolitan in distribution. They are native to all continents except for Antarctica. There are 10 species of this genus present in North America. (Lafontaine and Schmidt, 2010)

Armyworm moths are found across the world. They are native to all continents except for Antarctica. There are 10 species of this genus that live in North America. (Lafontaine and Schmidt, 2010)

What kind of habitat do they need?

Armyworm moths are found in temperate and tropical habitats. They live on the ground. Moths and larvae of this genus are most common in tropical climates, but some species migrate into temperate regions during crop growing season. Forests, grasslands, and farmlands are their favorite places to live. (Pogue, 1916)

How do they grow?

Like other members of the order Lepidoptera, armyworms undergo metamorphosis. (Heppner, 1998)

How do they reproduce?

Armyworms lay eggs at night. Most species of this genus lay their eggs in a group. They reproduce sexually and use internal fertilization. (Heppner, 1998)

Armyworm moths do not care for their young. (Heppner, 1998)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement

How long do they live?

In the warmer parts of their range, armyworm moths produce new generations every 7-8 weeks. (Heppner, 1998)

How do they behave?

Like other moths, armyworm moths are active at night. Larvae of many species feed at night. During the day, they hide in hidden places and underground. Adults are able to fly and glide. Some species of this genus stay in one general place, while others move around large areas. Armyworm moths hibernate through the winter. They live in groups. (Heppner, 1998)

How do they communicate with each other?

Armyworms use visual, tactile, and chemical methods of communication. They also detect pheromones and vibrations. They use visual, tactile, vibrations, and chemical methods of perception.

What do they eat?

Armyworm moths eat many different kinds of vegetables, grain crops, grasses, and herbs. Some species of armyworm moths have up to 30 host plants. They may eat the leaves, stems, and fruits of their host plants. (Heppner, 1998; Nendick-Mason, 2004; Pogue, 1916)

Armyworms feed on agricultural plants like onions, celery, asparagus, peanuts, peppers, watermelon, beets, cabbages, pumpkins, cotton, soybeans, carrots, lettuce, peas, blueberries, strawberries, tomatoes, and tobacco. They feed on ornamentals like magnolias and gardeninas. (Heppner, 1998)

What roles do they have in the ecosystem?

Bacillus thuringienesis is a bacteria that infects armyworms and armyworm moths. Some species of armyworms are pests that destroy crops and plants. (Heppner, 1998)

Commensal or parasitic species (or larger taxonomic groups) that use this species as a host
  • Bacillus thuringienesis

Do they cause problems?

Almost half of the species in this genus are pests. Larvae can destroy large numbers of crops. Larval armyworms in the Old World are more destructive than others. The species Spodoptera exigua is a very bad pest. (Heppner, 1998; Pogue, 1916)

  • Ways that these animals might be a problem for humans
  • crop pest

How do they interact with us?

Armyworm moths have no known positive economic importance to humans.

Some more information...

The common name armyworm comes from how the larvae act. They may move in large groups from one host plant to the next. (Pogue, 1916)


Deena Hauze (author), Animal Diversity Web Staff.


Heppner, J. 1998. Spodoptera Armyworms in Florida (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae). Entomology Circular, No. 390: 1-5. Accessed August 14, 2020 at

Lafontaine, J., B. Schmidt. 2010. Annotated check list of the Noctuoidea (Insecta, Lepidoptera) of North America north of Mexico. ZooKeys, 40: 1-239. Accessed August 14, 2020 at

Nendick-Mason, H. 2004. "Genus Spodoptera - Armyworms" (On-line). Bug Guide. Accessed August 14, 2020 at

Pogue, M. 1916. Memoirs of the American Entomological Society. Philadelphia: American Entomological Society. Accessed August 14, 2020 at

Wagner, D., D. Schweitzer, J. Sullivan, R. Reardon. 2011. Owlet Caterpillars of Eastern North America. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Accessed August 14, 2020 at

University of Michigan Museum of ZoologyNational Science Foundation

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Hauze, D. 2020. "Spodoptera" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed May 25, 2024 at

BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
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