Fall Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) (FAW), is a member of the lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) family of insects and is native to the tropical and subtropical regions of South and Central America. FAW is a noted field pest of maize and sorghum crops, but FAW larvae are known to feed on more than 80 plant species, including basic crops such as rice, sorghum, millet, sugarcane, vegetable crops and cotton. FAW can cause significant maize yield losses and annual chemical control costs in the Americas amount to >US$600 million. Within its native range the FAW can have several generations per year and can undertake extensive migrations, with moths flying on the prevailing winds for up to 100 km per night. Annual migrations of FAW of over 2000km into the central and eastern USA are well known, but the populations do not survive the winter in these areas.
It is not known how and when the FAW first invaded Africa and established viable populations in the field, but FAW was first detected as a crop pest in western Africa in early 2016 (Benin, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe, and Togo). During 2016, the FAW outbreak then spread rapidly across central Africa into eastern Africa and down into southern Africa. By the end of 2016 it had invaded countries in southern Africa and was first reported in South Africa in January 2017. As of 30 January 2018, FAW had been detected and reported in almost all Sub Saharan African countries, except Djibouti, Eritrea, and Lesotho. FAW is expected to spread further in Africa as it is a migrating transboundary pest, but it has also now become a well-established and resident pest in most African countries. It has since widely spread across the middle east into Asia, India and Australia to become a global pest. The FAW has now become part of the endemic insect pest complex on maize and sorghum crops that African farmers must learn to manage in the years ahead. Farmers will need ongoing access to technical information and practical support in order for them to be able to manage this new pest in a cost-effective and environmentally sustainable manner.
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