Insect Control for the Health of Your Lawn
Controlling Harmful Lawn Insects
Insects that may damage lawns include various surface and some subsurface feeding caterpillars white grubs (which are the larvae of beetles), billbugs, and which are weevils with white, grub like larvae; and chinchbugs, which are true bugs in the order Hemiptera, armyworms, and cutworms also cause damage to lawns.
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The fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugipeda) is a good example of a pest that can sneak up on you. When it does, the results can be disastrous. Fall armyworms can strike in most regions of the United States and seem to have been relatively serious during the past few years.
The larvae feed at night on grass blades. The caterpillars feed on a variety of plants. Among the cool-season grasses, bluegrass, ryegrass, fine fescue and bentgrass are preferred cool-season turfgrasses. During the day the larvae hide in silk-lined tunnels or burrows at or slightly into the soil surface.
Some species damage plant crowns or roots as well as blades. Heavy infestations may seriously damage large areas of turf. Look for dew sparkling on the webs in the early morning or at dusk. Use the flotation method to force the caterpillars to the surface, where they can be counted.
Adult billbugs are about 1/5″ — 3/4″ long. They are beetles with long snouts, or bills, that carry to the tip a pair of strong jaws or mandibles with which the beetles chew their food. Clay yellow to reddish brown to jet black in color. The beetles burrow in the grass stems near the surface of the soil and also feed on the leaves. Several species of billbugs damage lawns. The bluegrass billbug is a bluegrass pest.
Bill Bugs are found in two forms: adult and larvae (infant). The adult Bill Bugs look like a small beetle and are distinguishable by the long elephant-like bill that protrudes from their head. Hence the name. The adult Bill Bug feeds on grass stems above the surface. The younger Bill Bugs, or larvae, look like C-shaped, legless, wet pieces of white-rice and feed on grass roots.
Bill bugs cause the most damage when they are larvae, and can spread and destroy large sections of grass if not contained or killed.
Common signs of Bill Bug problems are dead spots on your lawn that don’t recover from watering. Since the larvae feeds on the roots, you can also tell by pulling-up on the dead grass and see if it comes up easily from the roots. If so, it could be Bill Bugs.
The hairy chinchbug cohabits some of the northern range of the common chinch bug but also extends throughout the northeastern states and into southern Canada.
The hairy chinchbug prefers turfgrass species such as fine fescues, perennial ryegrasses, and Kentucky bluegrass.
Chinchbug damage is usually first detected when irregular patches of turf begin to turn yellow then straw colored. The straw colored areas may be completely dead. These patches continue to become larger in spite of watering.
Feeding by chinchbugs blocks the water and food conducting vessels of grass stems. By blocking the water, the leaves wither as in drought and the manufactured food doesn’t get to the roots. The result is plant death. Damage generally occurs during hot, dry weather from June into September.
The European crane fly is a pest which has become established in some areas. The adult cranefly has very long legs and looks like a large mosquito with a body about an 1″ long, not including the legs. Homeowners are alarmed when thousands of these large flies gather on the sides of homes. The crane fly does not bite or sting.
Cranefly larvae feed on grass roots and root crowns. The larvae go dormant in the soil through the winter (though in mild winters they may stay active through January). The greyish brown, inch-long larvae begin to feed heavily again in late February or March through April. During the day they feed on roots while on moist nights or wet, cloudy days they feed closer to the surface or emerge to feed on root crowns. They stop feeding in May and are inactive in the soil until they emerge as adults. Cranefly damage usually becomes noticeable in late spring as a sparse or brown patchy lawn.
Dull-brown, gray or nearly black caterpillars that are 1½” — 2″ long. Some cutworms are spotted, others are striped. Usually they hide in the soil during the day and feed at night.
Cutworms are the larvae of night-flying brown or grayish moths. Cutworms occasionally infest lawns. They feed on the leaves or cut off the grass near the soil and may do severe damage to seedlings of Bermudagrass, Bentgrass and Ryegrass.
Cutworms are large, hairless surface feeding moth larvae which can destroy patches of turf. Cutworms feed at night and damage the turf by snipping plants off at ground level, hiding in thatch by day. Birds feeding extensively in a turf area may indicate a high population of cutworms.
Cutworms often appear in the early spring when temperatures are slightly above freezing. Damage appears as closely clipped grass in patterns radiating from their tunnel or hiding place.
White grubs are the larval stage of many different beetles, including the Japanese beetle. The grubs live below ground and feed on the roots of tender grass plants that soon kills the plant. They are most destructive mid-late summer, but the damage they cause may not show up until early fall. If your lawn is showing dead or dying areas in late summer, grubs may be the cause.
If you suspect grubs, pull back the effected turf. If the lawn pulls up easily (like new sod) you may find white grubs in the top inch or so of the soil. They don’t really care if your grass dies in the process. But we do. Let us prevent (or stop) these unwelcome dinner guests before they cause severe damage and turf loss to your property. An application of Merit® Grub Preventative needs to be applied by mid-August and this application is guaranteed 100% effective.
Mole crickets feed at night during warm weather and after rain showers or irrigation. They come to the surface and feed on organic material, including grass, and other small organisms, including insects. During the day, and during periods of drought, they remain in their burrows, often for long periods of time.
Like fire ants, we can not eradicate mole crickets. They are with us to stay. And like all other insects, we really cannot control them, we can only manage them so that they stay within tolerable population levels.