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Summer Lawn Insects beginning to Show-up

Theresa Friday
Horticulture Agent
Santa Rosa County Extension

The long, hot days of summer means they you are likely to encounter greater insect populations. Careful routine scouting and recognizing damaging insects and their beneficial predators can help reduce the need for applying insecticides.

Chinch bugs

Chinch bugs love St. Augustinegrass lawns. The adults of this destructive insect are only about 1/5 of an inch long. They are black with what appears to be a white “X” across their backs where their wings fold over. The immature nymphs may be pink to orangey brown with a single white line across their backs.

The older nymphs (left) look similar to the adult (right). Photo Credits: Theresa Friday, Santa Rosa County Extension

An indication of an early infestation is a subtle yellowing of the leaf blades.  This is quickly followed by a thinning of the canopy and eventual death of the turf.  These insects are somewhat unique in that they prefer hot sunny areas of the lawn over shade so their injury symptoms generally appear in an open area first.

To scout for these tiny insects in your lawn you will need to part the turf canopy to the soil surface along a line where there is a change from damaged yellowing turf to healthy green turf. They move rather quickly, so keep an alert eye for their scurrying back into the turf.

Carbaryl (Sevin®), cyfluthrin (Bayer Advanced Powerforce® Multi-Insect Killer), lambda-cyhalothrin (Spectracide® Triazicide® Insect Killer Once & Done!) and permethrin are labeled insecticides for their control.

Mole crickets

Mole crickets are not nature’s most beautiful insect specimens. Adults are odd-looking light brown crickets. The front legs are short, flat, and shaped like miniature shovels well equipped for digging in your yard. The immature insects, or nymphs, look the same as the adults, just smaller. Both, however, feed on the grass roots.

Mole cricket Photo Credits: Theresa Friday, Santa Rosa County Extension

Walking across your grass may give you a hint to an infestation. The sod will have an unusual fluffiness to it. Closer examination will reveal holes in the ground about the size of a pencil. Small burrowing trails can also be seen.

However, we always want to confirm the presence of mole crickets. Mix two tablespoons of lemon liquid dishwashing soap in two gallons of water in a sprinkling can, and pour the solution onto a two by two foot section of affected turf. If two to four mole crickets emerge within four minutes after applying the soap solution, insecticide use may be justified.

For more information on how to treat for mole crickets, review a University of Florida online publication at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/lh034.

Sod webworm

Whenever small brown moths fly up as you mow, caterpillars are not far behind. The moths are there laying eggs and the caterpillars show up two to three weeks later.

Sod webworms eat leaf blades leaving a “notched” appearance Photo Credits: Theresa Friday, Santa Rosa County Extension

Young caterpillars chew notches along the edge of the leaves. This creates a ragged appearance that may be hard to notice at first. Mature caterpillars eat a lot before they pupate and consume patches of turfgrass down to the crown. Because the turf looks scalped so quickly, people think that the damage occurs “overnight.” Several caterpillar species can be turfgrass pests, including the tropical sod webworm, the fall armyworm, and the striped grass looper.

Caterpillars can sometimes be seen, along with their frass, just on the surface of the soil Photo Credits: Theresa Friday, Santa Rosa County Extension

For more information on lawn caterpillars and your control options, visit the University of Florida “Lawn Caterpillars” online publication at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/IN608 or call your local Extension Agent.

Gardening in the Panhandle

Permanent link to this article: http://okaloosa.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2012/02/28/summer-lawn-insects-beginning-to-show-up/