Evidence of Insects in Lawns

Jr. Batty  |  9/21/2010 7:49:47 PM

Tropical sod webworm, Herpetogramma phaeopteralis Guenée (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae), caterpillar. Photo by G. McIlveen, Jr.

Dieback, dead areas, half eaten grass blades and generally a "limp, lifeless lawn" is how many homeowners describe their turf recently. Is it a disease, is it drought or is it the burn out from a UFO? Most injury I’ve seen in lawns is due to insects. This year seems to be extraordinary.

Look for these signs:

  • The damage looks unusual and appears to happen in a very short period of time. Large spaces, sometimes circular, can appear overnight.
  • Look at the grass blades closely. Insect larvae and adults chew edges and in some cases completely strip the grass blades.
  • Occasionally you may spot webs in the morning dew. Sod worms leave a silky trail as they crawl.
  • Watch for birds feeding.

For definitive insect detection use soapy water. Put 2 tablespoons of lemon-scented liquid soap in a gallon of water. Pour it on a transition area (damaged turf to good turf). Sod webworms, chinch bugs, mole crickets and armyworms will come to the surface, running, wiggling and generally irritated.

The lemon soap does not kill the insect but temporally smothers them. If you see these insects, the good news is they can be easily controlled. Insecticides with bifenthrin or carbaryl are readily available in most stores, to manage these insects. Recovery is most likely for lawns that were in good shape prior to the insect invasion.

Keep a close eye for these insects during October. Watch for these insects and any other UFO’s (Ugly, Foreign, Occupants) before it’s too late.

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