Want to keep your lawn from being some bugs breakfast (and lunch and dinner)?
Read on to learn about the three most prolific summer pests plaguing Florida and Southern America.
Chinch bugs – The Most Common Lawn Pest
Let’s kick things off with the most common pest to plague the southern United States: the chinch bug. If you have St. Augustine or Zoysia grass and live in Florida – especially Central Florida – you should keep an eye out for these tiny lawn munching bugs.
Everything you need to know about Chinch Bugs
Chinch bugs start their lives as oval-shaped white eggs that hatch into yellow larvae. Then they grow into the 1/16-inch-long, reddish-orange nymphs.
One tell-tale sign you have a chinch bug nymph is the white band across its back.
Adults can grow to be 3/16 inches long. They’re black with white patches on the wings. There are two types – one with long wings and another with shorter wings. Other than their wingspan, there isn’t much difference between the two.
Chinch bugs prefer dry conditions and love hanging out in sun-drenched areas. They’re hardy enough to survive cool weather, so Florida’s winters won’t freeze them out. Their average lifespan is between 10 to 70 days. This means that all year, they’re spawning and recolonizing, taking over entire lawns without a care in the world!
Chinch bugs live in groups or clusters. They don’t spread out across an entire lawn. Instead, they eat everything they can from one area, then move in a mass to the next area. Throughout their up-to-70-day life, they feed off grass stems, stolons, and crowns, draining the sap and killing the plant from the ground up by sucking fluids from the glass.
How to tell if you have Chinch Bugs
The biggest sign is, of course, the yellow or brown glass. Since Chinch bugs love sunny areas, the first place you’ll find yellowing grass is in your lawn’s hotter, drier spots.
But what if it’s just water stress?
Well, in a healthy lawn, dead or yellow patches almost always start near a hard surface, like a sidewalk or driveway, before spreading into the middle of your lawn. If the yellowing is not near a hard surface, you most likely have chinch bugs. Also, chinch bugs make a circular spot of dead or dying grass. Water stress doesn’t always have that kind of symmetry.
To confirm your suspicions:
- Check the edge between the damaged and the healthy grass
- Look for a concentration of chinch bug adults and nymphs (tiny black and white bugs, or even tinier reddish-orange bugs)
Here’s how to get rid of them!
Thatch reduction and pesticides are the two best ways to control chinch bugs and keep them from destroying your lawn. Contact the experts! Chinch bugs are hard to eradicate. Expert lawn professionals like us have the skills, tools, and experience to make sure your lawn stays healthy and green.
White grubs – the larvae from over 100 different types of beetles
Next up on our lawn pests list! Grubs. Grub worms are actually beetle larvae. There are over 100 grub worm species in the United States alone! The white grub is the most common grub worm in Florida, and it’s really an immature Scarab beetle.
As you might expect, white grubs are very hungry little critters.
Everything you need to know about White Grubs
White grubs get their name from their light color. Most grub worms have a bright white body with a brown head. Measuring between 1/2 to 2 inches long, they’re often curled in a C-shape, resting between bites. All grub worms have three pairs of legs. They use their multiple appendages to crawl about and burrow into the ground.
White grubs hatch in about two weeks after the eggs are laid, which can happen anytime between June and August. Once they hatch, they start feeding and will continue to feed until the late fall when the ground freezes. They then burrow down and hibernate until spring, when they pop back up and continue eating! Once they’re full (around late spring), they turn into pupae and start their transformation cycle.
White grubs feed on the roots of any and every grass type. They burrow an inch below the surface and tunnel around the grass’s roots to suck up the nutrients. Root injury makes it more difficult for the grass to absorb water and nutrients from the soil.
Thus, killing the grass itself.
How to tell if you have White Grubs
Grubs will hit hardest in the summer since that’s when the grassroots have grown the deepest. Since white grubs and other grub worms rarely appear above ground, you’ll have to rely on the appearance of your lawn to let you know if you have an infestation.
Like with Chinch Bugs, the tell-tale sign of white grubs is patches of dying grass. Look for large patches of brown or yellowing lawn. Unlike with chinch bugs, these patches can be anywhere from a few feet in size to an entire yard. That’s because white grubs will spread out under the lawn, looking for food wherever they can find it.
It’s hard to know if it is grubs, though.
Here’s how to know if it’s grubs or just plain old water stress:
- Damage will start as small yellow or brown areas scattered about the yard.
- It will grow and spread, no matter how much you water.
- Your turf will pull up easily when lifted – in worst-case scenarios, you can roll the turf like a carpet.
- You have moles, opossums, and armadillos digging around in your lawn (they love to eat grubs).
Here’s how to get rid of them!
Reduce thatch build-up, mow the grass, and remove any clippings. Then apply any inexpensive generic all-purpose granular insecticide with a fertilizer spreader. Irrigate the lawn.
For really bad infestations, you should get a professional to investigate the situation. Since white grubs live in the soil, it can be challenging for homeowners to know when they’re fully eradicated.
Mole crickets – A serious pest problem in Florida
Mole crickets are one of the most destructive invasive species in Florida. Like white grubs, they will feed on any grass type – they are not picky eaters! (Though they do prefer Bahia and Bermuda grass.) They love warm climates and have made Central Florida their base of operations.
To make matters worse, there are three species of mole crickets! The short-winged mole cricket, the southern mole cricket, and the tawny mole cricket.
Everything you need to know about Mole Crickets
These pesky burrowing critters grow to up to 1 and a 1/2 inches long. They’re winged creatures, so they’re able to spread across large areas quickly. The most common mole crickets are light brown with elongated forelegs for burrowing or tunneling like their namesake, the mole.
The size and shape of those forelegs are what help experts which type of mole cricket they are.
Mole crickets are most active at night after an afternoon rain or irrigation. They live both above and below ground – the adults lay eggs underground in the spring; the larvae hatch and feed on roots, and then the adults come out at night to feed on the grass leaves.
This makes them destructive on both ends!
To make matters worse, mole crickets are active all year round. They never go dormant. In addition to snacking on the roots, their constant tunneling loosens soil and causes erosion. They push plants out of the earth, causing them to dry out in the sun. The holes left behind are prime real estate for weeds.
Often, homeowners won’t even know there’s a problem until late summer when it’s too late!
How to tell you have Mole Crickets
As with white grubs and chinch bugs, yellowing and dying grass is a good visual cue. Mole crickets make visible tunnels as well and kick up lots of dirt or soil to do so. The tunnel outlines are visible from a high vantage point – like a second-story window or rooftop. Look for mounds and piles in your lawn – if you see them, you have mole crickets.
Here’s what to do to test your theory and confirm you have mole crickets:
- Pour a liquid detergent and water solution (1 tbsp detergent per gallon of water) onto a few square feet of your lawn.
- Wait and watch the patch (for about 10 minutes).
- If you have them, the mole crickets will appear.
Finally, check for mole cricket predators. If birds and raccoons find your lawn particularly interesting, you probably have an infestation.
Here’s how to get rid of them!
Mole crickets are very difficult to exterminate. That’s why the first suggestion we have is to contact an expert! The infestation must be controlled quickly to reduce the risk of mole crickets spreading to nearby lawns.
Prevention is key when it comes to mole crickets. Here are a few things you can try to prevent these grass destroyers from moving into your lawn:
- Treat your lawn with insecticide in the early spring (when adult mole crickets are nesting).
- Treat again in the early summer (when the nymphs have migrated to the surface).
- Encourage Larra Wasps to come visit your home by planting white pentas and false buttonweed (which Larra wasps love). According to this University of Florida Entomology & Nematology article, Larra wasps are mole crickets natural predators.
- Purchase special nematodes for your soil that infect and kill mole crickets
Have a summer pest problem? Call a professional!
Here at Green 365, we’ve studied lawn pests in great detail and can quickly identify which pest is plaguing your lawn. We’ll ensure the steps are taken to eradicate the pests and prevent them from returning in an environmentally friendly, family-friendly, and pet-friendly way.
Call Green 365 to help keep your lawn lush and green all summer long.
Our Green 365 Lawn and Pest Solutions, LLC experts can check for pests and diseases and treat your lawn to keep it healthy all year long. We’ll provide you with friendly, professional lawn care services and maintenance. Contact us today for a free quote.
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