COMMON INSECT PESTS TO LOOK FOR IN LAWNS

grassBy Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent

Mole crickets can be a problem in North Florida lawns spring through fall. The best window of opportunity to control them is in June and July. Soap flush is a technique to survey for mole crickets. Mix two ounces of liquid dish washing soap in two gallons of water and apply with a sprinkling can to four square feet of turf in several areas where mole crickets are suspected. If an average of two to four mole crickets surface within three minute,s then treatment is probably needed.

Chinch bugs only damage St. Augustinegrass. They are more likely to be found in open sunny areas of the yard as we move into warmer summer weather and on into fall, particularly if it’s dry. Inspect a St. Augustine lawn weekly during spring, summer and fall. Look for off-color areas that quickly turn yellow and then straw brown. part the grass at the margin of the yellowed areas and closely examine the soil surface and base of the turf for tiny insects. Immature chinch bugs are pink to bright red and are about the size of a pinhead. The adults are only 1/5-inch long and black with white wings.

Sod webworms’ favorite grass is Bermuda and their least favorite is Bahia. They will also attack St. Augustinegrass and centipedegrass. Most years, they do not become a problem in North Florida until August and continue to feed on lawns until frost occurs. The soap flush technique is a good way to identify sod webworms. They may also be found by parting the grass and looking for small green caterpillars (no larger than 3/4-inch in length) curled up on the soil surface and for small green pellet-like droppings. The grass blades will be notched from their chewing and heavily infested turf may appear mowed. Because they are nocturnal, a flashlight used at night will reveal the caterpillars feeding.

Spittlebugs attack all turfgrass species but centipede grass seems to be their favorite host. The first generation of adult spittlebugs is abundant in June, and the peak population is usually in August to early September. An early sign of spittlebug activity are masses of white, frothy spittle found in the turf. Each piece of spittle contains a single larva. Infested turf turns yellow and eventually brown. Damage resembles chinch bug injury but usually first appears in shady areas. As you walk through or mow an infested area, numerous adult spittlebugs appear to hop when disturbed (actually, they fly for s short distance). Adults are black with two orange transverse stripes across their wings.

If a pesticide becomes necessary to control a lawn pest, be sure to follow the product’s label instructions for application, usage, and precautions.

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