23 Aug What is a Mole Cricket and How to Control Them
What is a Mole Cricket and How to Control Them
If you have noticed small tunnels appearing near the surface of your soil, or your lawn begins to feel spongy, you may be noticing symptoms of mole crickets. Sometimes, grass may seem to turn brown and die in these areas. This week, Sod University takes a closer look at what a mole cricket is, how to identify a mole cricket issue, and how to solve infestations and recover from damage.
How to Identify a Mole Cricket and Infestation
Mole crickets are a common turfgrass pest found throughout the southeastern United States that cause significant damage to home and commercial lawns by feeding mainly on turfgrass roots and shoots and by tunneling just beneath the soil’s surface of your lawn. While mole cricket damage can first appear in early spring, mole crickets reach their peak activity and cause the most damage from late August to October. A mole cricket infestation can be identified by their tunnels which push up soil and grass, as well as the presence of brown and dying grass due to mole cricket feeding habits. Additionally, during the mating season in spring, mole crickets will build small mounds of soil with a discernible opening where they will lay their eggs (see image below). The insects themselves are about 1–1 1/4 inches long when mature and can vary in color from dark brown to tan. However they all share similar and distinct large, front claws that are used for digging. A simple technique that can be used by homeowners to confirm the presence of mole crickets is to add 1–2 ounces of dish soap to a gallon of water and saturate the suspected area. This should quickly reveal both immature and adult mole crickets as they come to the surface.
Managing a Mole Cricket Infestation
Once an infestation is confirmed, steps to monitor and manage the mole crickets should begin immediately as fall is a critical time for controlling the pest population before they move deeper into soil for winter and hibernation. There are multiple approaches to controlling a mole cricket population including biological control and chemical treatments such as insecticides.
Popular biological controls that have found success in controlling mole cricket populations naturally are certain species of nematodes, or worm-like parasites. A variety of nematode products can be found online, but it must be specific to treating mole crickets and should be used soon after it has been received by mail. Nematodes are also most effective for treating adult mole crickets, so late summer and early fall is the optimal time to apply nematode products.
Additionally, liquid or granular insecticides are a common method for controlling mole crickets, but it is important that the insecticide reaches the soil underneath the surface where the mole crickets live. Also, scientists list important active ingredients for mole cricket insecticides as bifenthrin, carbaryl, imidacloprid, gramma cyhalonthrin, deltamethrin, and permethrin. For example, Bayer Advanced Complete Insect Killer is an effective granular insecticide with the said active ingredients, and Spectracide Insect Killer for Lawns is a convenient liquid insecticide that kills both adult and immature mole crickets. While fall is a critical time for applying insecticides to diminish the population before they dig deeper into the soil during winter, if an infestation is caught in the late spring, insecticides can be effective in early June and July when adults are active.
For Mole Cricket Nematodes:
To learn more about the variety of insects and pests that could be infesting your lawn, check out our Insect Identification blog.