OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)--Scientists say it's too early to tell whether moths that have swarmed the state this spring have left enough eggs to cause an armyworm attack.
Entomologists and agronomists are urging wheat farmers and gardeners to wait another week or two before spraying to fight the moths.
"It's hard to predict what's going to become of this," said Miles Karner, Oklahoma State University Extension service entomologist.
"I'd be better off predicting the lotto. You could have all the moths in the world right here, but the way the winds blew last night, they could be down in Louisiana now."
Experts have been looking this week for armyworms, which are caterpillars that can ravage crops, lawns and landscapes. They worry about potential devastation because of the heavier-than-normal flight of armyworm moths reported from Altus to Tulsa.
The moths can lay dozens of eggs on a single plant. When the larvae hatch, they eat plants.
But an abundance of moths does not necessary mean lots of larvae.
OSU entomologist Phil Mulder said predators, parasites and disease can influence how many larvae survive. He said the last heavy moth flight was in 1998, but that didn't bring a heavy caterpillar infestation, he said.
Mulder said there's no clear understanding of what causes heavy moth flights.
"They seem to be cyclical," he said. "We get them every three to four years."
He speculated this year's heavy flight originated in Texas where many of the moths may have wintered in their pupa stage. It's possible they pupated there, then flew into the state on strong southerly winds.
The past winter may have been too harsh in Oklahoma for pupa to survive, Mulder said.
Roger Jacobi, owner of Oklahoma City-based AgriLawn, has been answering calls this week from homeowners concerned about moths swarming their yards and patios.
"There's no reason to get into a panic until we see how many hatch," Jacobi said.
He said there's no point in poisoning them because that would endanger other insects such as butterflies.
Instead, Jacobi and other experts say it's best to wait for their eggs to hatch, then battle the armyworm caterpillars with a variety of treatments.