02 Aug Insect Identification
The summer (think: live outside, cookout, play in the grass) season is here. There are so many great things about summer, but it’s also prime insect season. While flying insects can be a nuisance for your outdoor enjoyment, it’s important to pay special attention to the insects you oftentimes can’t see; they can cause problems for your lawn and headaches for you. There are both beneficial and destructive insects present in every lawn. Identifying insects correctly is the key to stopping a problem in your lawn before it begins. Here is a list of some of the most damaging species:
The chinch bug is a pervasive pest found throughout lawns in the southern part of the United States. This insect has a favorite food, St. Augustine grass, which is why it is very common in Florida and Texas. Chinch bugs are tiny and are oftentimes not seen while damage is being done to the lawn. They like to hang around the soil level, down in the thatch of the grass. Chinch bugs in adult form are about the size of the head of a pen, making them difficult to spot.
Tropical Sod Webworms are a type of lawn caterpillar which are most common in the late summer and fall. The adult form is a small, lawn moth that is tan in color measuring in at about ½ to ¾ of an inch in size. It lays eggs on the blades and in the thatch of grass. Within about a week, small caterpillars hatch and begin to feed on the blades of turfgrass.
Fall Armyworm is a larger lawn caterpillar than the Tropical Sod Webworm and outbreaks are common in the United States in the late summer to early fall timeframe. Fall Armyworms are the larval stage of the Fall Armyworm Moth which has a wingspan of 30 to 40 mm. Army worms in the larval (caterpillar) stage have an inverted “Y” shape on their heads and feed on the blades of grass. They are also in the range of 30 to 40 mm long.
White grubs are the larval stage of a number of different types of scarab beetles. While adults don’t bother turfgrass much, the damage to lawns comes while in the larvae form underground. White grubs feed on the roots of grass. While most common from the spring to fall months, the worst lawn damage usually shows in late summer and early fall.
A white grub it is larval form, the Hunting Billbug is a type of weevil with a long, crooked snout. Often noticeable on the blades of grass or on sidewalks near a lawn, Hunting Billbugs are especially fond of zoysia and bermudagrass lawns. Billbugs feel on the blades, often leaving in their paths patches of browning and dying grass.
Found predominantly in centipede grass, spittlebugs are small, winged insects with two obvious red stripes across their wings. The spittlebug nymph hatches and begins sucking the juices out of the grass. Telltale signs are a frothy substance down in the thatch level that the bugs typically live in. Walking through a lawn infected with spittlebug adults is quite obvious as the bugs will fly to another section of lawn as you walk through the area.
Mole crickets are found throughout the southern United States and are not hard to see if they happen to be above the surface. Measuring over an inch in length, mole crickets are distinct from other cricket types as they live underground most of the time and use their “hands” to dig through the soil. This digging leaves small, raised areas in the landscape. The damage from mole crickets comes from severing grass roots as they tunnel underground.
Insects can be difficult to find unless you know exactly what you are looking for. So, if you suspect there might be an insect invasion in your lawn, one simple way to find out is to use a soap-flush. Mix four to five tablespoons of dish detergent with 2 gallons of water and then pour on a four to six square foot area of the lawn. Insects will come to the surface over the course of the next five minutes. If you see them in large numbers, you need to treat with an insecticide.
Clemson University entomologist Dr. J.C. Chong is an expert when it comes to understanding every nuance and characteristic of the creatures that crawl in and under lawns. He and his team spend hours evaluating each homeowner’s turfgrass in order to determine if damage to the lawn was caused by an insect and if so, what kind. Armed with information, a proper plan for repair can be put into effect. As Dr. Chong will tell you, prevention is the best way to stop damaging insects before they get a foothold.
Below are a few recommended insecticide applications. As with all lawn care products, read the labels, and follow instructions carefully.