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How Can Lawn Insects Hurt Your Lawn?
Lawn insects can cause major damage to your lawn if left unchecked. From burrowing and tunneling into the soil to devouring plant material, these pests can quickly wreak havoc on a healthy lawn. Not only do they destroy grass as they feed, but they also can carry diseases that can hurt the surrounding plants. In addition, infestations of certain types of insects such as chinch bugs can lead to large-scale damage and destruction.
Common Lawn Insects
Maintaining a lush and healthy lawn is an essential aspect of any home, but it can be challenging when common lawn insects invade. These pests can cause significant damage to lawns, leaving behind brown patches, dead grass, and irregular spots. To protect your lawn, it’s essential to understand the various types of lawn insects, their life cycles, and control measures. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the most common lawn insects, their destructive effects on lawns, and how to manage them effectively.
Grubs are among the most destructive pests that can damage your lawn tremendously. These plump, C-shaped larvae feed on the grass roots, causing brown patches of dead grass and weakening the turf’s ability to resist other diseases and pests.
Before treating your lawn for grubs, it’s essential to identify the pest. One way to do this is by examining the roots of affected grass plants, where you may find milky-white larvae with brown heads. Another method is to dig out a small square of turf and count the grubs present per square foot.
The most common variety of grub is the Japanese beetle, which is known for its metallic green body and bronze wings. They emerge from the soil in late summer as adult beetles and lay their eggs in numerous locations, making it difficult to locate and eradicate. European chafers, on the other hand, have a tan-colored body with a dark head and feed on the roots of the grass throughout their larval stage. Both these varieties of white grubs can cause significant lawn damage, creating brown patches, and damaging the root system.
If left untreated, grubs can damage your lawn significantly, causing brown spots that can attract other common lawn pests. Preventative measures can be taken with the aid of beneficial nematodes or insecticides that kill them in the larvae stage. Insecticides can be applied through garden centers but should be put down following the manufacturer’s instructions, usually in the late afternoon or evening when the grubs are close to the surface. Another effective, albeit more time-consuming, alternative is to dilute a few tablespoons of dish soap in a gallon of water and pour it over the infected areas.
Chinch bugs are one of the most destructive pests that can quickly take over and ruin your lawn if not addressed promptly. Identifying these tiny insects is crucial in preventing and controlling their damage.
Chinch bugs are typically black with white wings and are about 1/5 inch in length. They cause damage to lawns by extracting sap from grass plants with their piercing-sucking mouthparts. This results in irregular patches of yellowed or dead grass, which can eventually create large dead spots in your lawn.
Chinch bugs undergo a life cycle consisting of eggs, five nymphal stages, and adult chinch bugs. The eggs are laid in the thatch layer in the late spring, and the nymphs hatch out in a few days to start feeding on grass blades. During the larval stage, they are most destructive, and many people may not identify them until they cause visible damage.
To prevent and control chinch bug damage, it’s best to maintain a healthy lawn with proper watering and fertilization techniques. Regular mowing helps to reduce the risk of chinch bug damage by removing damaged and weakened grass blades where they tend to thrive.
If you suspect chinch bug damage, inspect your lawn for the presence of these pesky insects along with small black bodies and tiny white wings. Control measures range from using insecticides to utilizing beneficial insects that feed on the chinch bugs, such as the armyworm moth and adult billbugs.
Sod webworms are a common lawn pest that can cause significant damage to your lawn if left unchecked. These caterpillars are small, measuring only about 1 inch in length, and are usually tan or greenish-brown in color. One identifying characteristic of sod webworms is their dark heads.
Sod webworms feed on grass blades at night and construct silk-lined tunnels in the soil during the day. These tunnels can be difficult to detect and can cause significant damage to your lawn if left unmanaged.
To effectively manage sod webworms, an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach is recommended. This approach combines several methods to control the pest while minimizing harm to the environment.
Regular monitoring of your lawn is the first step in an IPM strategy, as it helps to identify the presence of sod webworms before significant damage occurs. Look for signs of silken tunnels or chewed grass blades.
Biological control is another effective method for managing sod webworms. Beneficial insects, such as parasitic wasps and nematodes, can be introduced to your lawn to feed on the caterpillars and disrupt their life cycle. These organisms do not harm other beneficial insects and are environmentally friendly.
Chemical control should be used only as a last resort when other methods are ineffective. Insecticides can be applied to the lawn to control sod webworms, but it is important to follow the instructions carefully to ensure safe and effective use.
Cutworms and Armyworms
Cutworms and armyworms are common lawn insects that can cause significant damage to your lawn if left unmanaged. Cutworms are caterpillar-like insects that are typically 1-2 inches long and can have a variety of colors, ranging from brown to green. Armyworms, on the other hand, are larger, measuring up to 2 inches in length and have distinctive stripes along their bodies.
These insects get their names from their behavior. Cutworms are known for their habit of cutting off the base of grass blades at or below ground level, while armyworms are known for their tendency to march across lawns in large numbers, consuming anything in their path.
Cutworms and armyworms can be destructive to lawns as they cause damage to grass stems and roots, which can result in the development of irregular patches of dead grass. The damage caused by these pests is often more severe in late summer when the larvae are in their larval stage and feed more aggressively.
To control the populations of cutworms and armyworms in your lawn, insecticides should be used during the early spring or when the pests are in their early stages of development. It is important to follow the instructions provided with the insecticide carefully to ensure safe and effective use. In addition to insecticide use, maintaining a healthy lawn can help to prevent infestations from occurring, as healthy lawns are less susceptible to damage caused by common lawn pests.
Billbugs are another common group of lawn insects that can cause significant lawn damage. These small, beetle-like pests are known for their tendency to bore into the crowns and stems of grass plants. Once inside, billbug larvae feed on the plant tissues and cause damage to the grass roots, leading to the development of brown patches and dead spots.
Identifying billbug damage can be challenging since their damage often resembles that of other lawn pests like chinch bugs and white grubs. However, some telltale signs of billbug damage include patches of grass that turn brown and die off, especially during the summer months. Additionally, mature billbugs can be easily identified by their black bodies and the presence of a long, curved snout or bill, which they use to bore into the grass stems and crowns.
Controlling billbugs can be a challenge since the pests can be active in different stages of their life cycle. Effective control measures include the use of insecticides, which should be applied early in the season when the pests are in their larvae stage. Insecticides can also be used during the adult stage, but they are usually less effective. Another control method is to remove the thatch layer from the lawn, as this is where immature billbugs often reside.
Beneficial insects and other natural methods can also be used to prevent or control billbug infestations. Beneficial nematodes, which are microscopic worms that feed on the larvae of billbugs and other pests, can be purchased from garden centers and applied to the lawn. In addition, maintaining a healthy lawn that is well-watered and fertilized can help prevent billbugs from infesting the area.
Japanese beetles are a common lawn pest that can cause significant damage to lawns and plants. These beetles are about a half-inch long, with copper-colored wings and a metallic green body. Their larvae are white, C-shaped grubs that can grow up to an inch long and have brown heads.
The impact of Japanese beetle damage on lawns and plants is severe. The adult beetles feed on the leaves, flowers, and fruit of plants, leaving behind skeletonized foliage and damaged fruit. This can cause the plant to weaken and potentially die. The larvae, on the other hand, feed on the roots of grass plants, causing brown spots and irregular patches of dead grass, especially in late summer.
Effective control measures for Japanese beetle infestations include tackling both the adult and larvae stages. The best time to control them is during the larvae stage, where products such as beneficial nematodes can be used to fight them before they reach the adult stage. Beneficial nematodes are microscopic worms that parasitize the larvae of Japanese beetles and other pests. They can be purchased at garden centers and applied to the lawn.
For mature Japanese beetles, pyrethrin spray, insecticidal soap or neem oil can be used to control them. These products should be applied directly to the beetle, but care should be taken not to spray them too close to the plant itself, as they can damage it.
Handpicking the beetles or applying a towel soaked in soapy water to the affected areas can also be effective in controlling their population. It is important to do this late in the afternoon when most of the adult beetles are active.
Organic options that can be bought at garden centers are also available for controlling Japanese beetles. These include organic pesticides that use natural ingredients, such as pyrethrin, to control the population of these insects.