During the summer months, you may start to notice brown patches or other lawn damage in your otherwise healthy lawn. These areas of dead grass are often a symptom of common lawn pests. Whether these critters are working right on top of your lawn or underneath the soil, it is important to identify the type of pest that is causing damage to your turf. When you know what type of pest you are dealing with, you can take care of the problem right away with a pest control program, and avoid an infestation that could be devastating to your lawn.
Types of Lawn Pests
White grubs are the larvae of many different types of scarab beetles, including Japanese beetles, June beetles, and masked chafers. Adult beetles lay eggs in the soil during midsummer. The eggs hatch and the larvae feed on grass roots. When the weather starts to turn cool, the grubs retreat further underground and go dormant for the winter. In early spring, warmer temperatures bring them up to just below the soil surface to eat grass roots again until early summer, when they make their transition to adult beetles.
These grubs can do extensive damage to the lawn. Grub damage first appears as wilted grass blades, which eventually become brown spots in the lawn. If you have lawn grubs, you may also find evidence of hungry animals like skunks, moles, and raccoons burrowing in your yard to eat them.
Armyworms are the 1-2 inch long larvae of many different types of brown moths that are identifiable by their furry abdomens. In their larval stage, these pests can be many different colors, including yellow, gray, and pink. Unlike grubs, armyworms eat grass blades and stems, and the leaves of other plants. They are active in the evening, night, and early morning hours. Armyworm damage in a lawn results in a circular bare spot in the turf.
Fire ants are reddish-brown and only about 3/4 of an inch long, but don’t let their size fool you. Fire ants are some of the most troublesome insect pests found in lawns and landscapes throughout the southwest because of their painful bite and aggressive behavior. Fire ant mounds usually appear in sunny areas, often close to sidewalks and roads. The mounds can be anywhere from a couple of inches to a couple of feet high, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Fire ants build elaborate tunnels underground that can extend over 25 feet away from the mound. During periods of extreme heat or drought, fire ants go deeper underground and do not build mounds.
There are many different types of chinch bugs that feed on turfgrass throughout the US. These are tiny black insects with white wings that can be found in the thatch layer or in the crowns of the grass blades. When they feed, they suck the juice out of the grass blades and secrete a toxin that stops the grass from absorbing water, causing it to dry up and die. Chinch bugs lay their eggs in the grass between spring and early fall. and the young bugs or nymphs feed on the grass. Adult chinch bugs spend the winter months in a dormant state at the base of the grass.
Lawn damage from chinch bugs can be mistaken for stress caused by drought. Look for patches of grass that first look purplish, then wilt, turn yellow and then brown. This usually occurs between June and September, when chinch bugs are feeding on the grass.
Sod webworms are the larvae of a gray moth called the sod webworm moth. The larvae are gray or tan with dark spots and about an inch long. Adult moths lay their eggs in the grass. When the eggs hatch, the larvae eat the grass blades and stems during the night, and hide in silk webbed burrows during the day. They are only in the larvae form for a little over a month when they turn into adult moths.
Sod webworms can quickly cause extensive damage to turf if left unchecked. First, you will notice small brown patches that appear scalped. Over time, the patches will expand.
Billbugs are a beetle in the weevil family that can be found throughout most of North America. They are about 1/2 inch in length and have a long, protruding snout. The larvae look similar to white grubs, but they do not have legs. Unlike many other lawn pests, billbug larvae and adult beetles cause damage to the grass. The adult beetles chew holes in the grass blades and lay their eggs inside. When the eggs hatch, the larvae eat the grass from the inside, root to tip.
When grass begins to turn brown in early summer, it could be billbugs. They can be tricky to detect, but a lawn care professional can determine the presence of billbugs by pulling the grass to see if it breaks off at the soil line, and looking for the presence of billbug excrement, which appears powdery, like sawdust.
There are many different types of cutworms. Cutworms are the larvae of a gray moth with brown to black markings. Most species of cutworms grow to about two inches long and are gray or brown with irregular striping. Adult moths lay their eggs on the tips of the grass in spring. When the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the grass blades for about three weeks before they become moths. Cutworms feed at the base of the grass at night, biting the stem completely off. During the day, they hide in burrows beneath the soil.
Evidence that cutworms are feeding on your grass includes sheared-off grass blades and visible burrows in the soil. Damage from cutworms can cause dead spots in the turf.
Lawn Pest Control
The best way to control pests is by maintaining a healthy lawn. Proper mowing practices, fertilizing, aerating, watering, and dethatching on a schedule that is appropriate for your specific turf will promote green, healthy grass that is more resistant to pests.
With a professional lawn care service, your technician will monitor your landscape for any signs of pests and treat the problem before there is any major damage. They can determine which type of treatment is appropriate. Treatment options include granular pesticides, milky spore bacteria, or nematodes.
If you are having trouble with summer lawn pests, contact us today to learn about our lawn care services. We can help you rid your lawn of pests and weeds and create a beautiful, healthy lawn that will be resistant to future threats such as diseases and lawn insects.