When you look at your lawn and see that what was all over green and lush now has unhealthy or dead patches, you are probably dealing with one or several issues. It could be drought, lawn disease, soil nutrient deficiencies, or lawn pests.
If your lawn is beyond repair, check out our Instant Lawn Hobart Services page to replace your damaged lawn.
SOME COMMON SYMPTOMS OF LAWN PEST INFESTATION
Before you call on the experts, you may already notice some tell-tale signs that lawn pests are present in your yard.
Increased Bird and Wildlife Activities
When you have an infestation of lawn pests, you may notice an unusual rise in the number of birds visiting into your property. Other insect-eating wildlife may also start coming too.
Increased Presence of Insects
There may also be an increase in moth and other insects, indicating that the pests have started to mature and breed.
You may also notice that your turf is not taking root properly. If you have an infestation of lawn pests, you may find that you can easily pull up your grass, and it will “peel off” like a carpet.
Another result of pest at the root level is the sponge-like feel when you walk over the turf. You may feel a slight bounce because the grass root system is no longer properly attached to the soil.
Grass Patterns of Discolouration and Death
One more indicator is when patches or areas on your lawn seem like the grass is dying or are already dead—one culprit could be lawn pests. Usually, but not always, lawn pests cause damage that will leave a rounder pattern on the turf.
You need to address lawn pest infestation as soon as possible, or the infestation will literally eat up your grass. But before you can control lawn pests, it is essential to identify them first correctly.
GENERAL TIPS ON PEST CONTROL
Identify the Lawn Pests
You need to identify the type of lawn pests you are dealing with before you can kill or control the pests. Proper identification will help you know their characteristics, life cycle, and feeding habits.
Most lawn pests overwinter and are active in the warmer and drier seasons. Some pests prefer warm and moist conditions.
You need to know the specific lawn pest to understand what kind of insecticides to apply if required. Timing is critical in the application of preventive and remedial methods to control lawn pests.
Know Your Lawn Grass, Too
Certain types of grass are more susceptible to certain types of lawn pests. For example, if you have Couch Grass, your lawn is more at risk for couch grass mites than other grass types.
Lawn grubs prefer Eureka Kikuyu, Nullarbor Couch Grass, and RTF Tall Fescue more than Sir Grunge, certain Hybrid Bermuda or Sir Walter.
Sod webworms prefer cool-season grass.
Be Fully Informed About the Chemicals and Methods You will Use
At best, using the wrong method and pesticide will waste your time and money. Worse, it can cause more harm to your lawn instead of addressing the lawn pest infestation.
Proper timing is essential, and it cannot be stressed enough. Effective lawn pest control depends on the type of pest, the method you will use, and even the type of grass on your lawn.
Consult with a local lawn expert for better guidance and information.
Practice Safety Precautions When Handling and Applying Insecticides
Insecticides are powerful chemicals formulated to kill pests. They can irritate and may even be poisonous to humans and pets.
Before applying insecticides, wear proper personal protective equipment or PPE: glasses, gloves, long sleeves, long pants, and closed shoes.
Make sure to carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions if you will DIY your pest control. If you are not sure precisely what to do, it would be best to consult with lawn care experts for advice and guidance.
TIPS for PREVENTION of LAWN PEST INFESTATION
Keep Your Lawn Healthy
Healthy turf can withstand lawn pest infestation better. Make sure that your lawn is adequately watered; keep on top of lawn mowing and fertilization.
Weed control will also help ensure the health of your lawn.
Keep on top of proper lawn care to ensure that your grass can fight off infestation and prevent or stop the damage before lawn pests take over your lawn.
Check on your lawn regularly to spot any irregularity in the colour, condition, and growth.
Observe birds and wildlife too. If more birds are suddenly visiting your lawn, then it is an indication that they have insects and grubs to feed on from your turf.
While some wildlife and insects are welcome in your lawn and garden, others are unsightly and cause damage. That is just the nature of pests—they are a nuisance and cause significant harm.
Some lawn pests can be detected with the naked eye, while others may be a challenge to see. In addition to seeing dead patches on your lawn, another indicator is a marked increase in birds and other wildlife.
We have listed below some of the most common lawn pests and how you can identify and control them.
Billbug (Sphenophorus brunnipennis)
There are about 70 species under the genus Sphenophorus, but only the s. brunnipennis is the only specie known to occur in Australia.
The billbug larvae are usually about 2 to 10mm long, living for up to 50 days before it pupates. The adult billbug is generally around 10mm long.
They cause damage the most from November to January when the larvae are growing and most active. They feed on the rhizomes and roots of the turf.
When you have billbugs on your lawn, you may notice certain areas turn from yellow to brown as the larvae cause damage. The grass will peel off easily when you pull on the infested area.
How to Control Billbugs
You can control billbugs through beneficial nematodes or pesticides. Make sure to follow the instructions carefully.
Nematodes are usually applied very early in the day and when temperatures are within 12-32°C.
Mole Crickets (Gryllotalpidae)
Mole crickets have cylindrical bodies and can grow to 3 to 5 cm as adults. Most of its life cycle—egg, nymph to adult—is spent underground, but adults grow wings and come out to reproduce.
Mole crickets have hind legs like the true cricket’s, but instead of leaping, they are used for digging. They are considered lawn pests because they feed mostly on the roots of the lawn, although they sometimes also feed on worms and grubs.
They are hard to detect until they have already multiplied and are ready to breed. You can hear the crickets too because male mole crickets chirp loudly.
A soapy water solution can help flush them out if you want to confirm their infestation. Mix two teaspoons of liquid detergent to about 8 litres of water and drench over about a square metre of the lawn.
How to Control Mole Crickets
ou can use appropriate insecticides to kill and control mole crickets. Make sure that your application will reach down to the subsoil where mole crickets stay.
There are many species of ants, estimated to be 22,000, and the type of ants on your lawn will vary depending on where you are.
Ants are not usually considered as pests because they can even help control other insects in the lawn. However, ant colonies underground can sometimes damage your lawn’s roots and prevent growth.
The colonies can even reach to the surface and form mounds that will disturb the lawn profile. Ants are also a nuisance when they bite, especially if you have small children and pets who play and roll on the grass.
How to Control Ants
To control and kill ants in your lawn, you can spot control using chemical insecticides. However, take the necessary precautions if you have small children and pets, as you would when using any kind of harsh chemical.
Another option is with milder alternatives such as spraying or drenching the area with soapy water. You may also use borax, again taking precautions if you have small children and pets.
Two-spotted mites (Tetranychus urticae)
Also known as spider mite, adult two-spotted mites are minuscule, at half a millimetre. It has eight legs and looks like a tiny spider.
The eggs of the two-spotted mites are spherical and transparent. It breeds in winter and population will rapidly increase in hot and dry weather. The spider mite’s life cycle lasts up to four weeks, but there can be several overlapping generations in a year.
Two-spotted mites can usually be found on the underside of grass blades, near the veins where they lay their eggs. You will notice them more as you see some sort of webbing on your lawn grass.
How to Control Two-spotted Mites
There are insecticides specific to mites. You can use these if you are sure that you have mite infestation. Since they are tough to see, it is better to consult with lawn experts who can correctly determine the kind of pests on your lawn, and follow their recommendations.
Couch Grass Mites (Aceria cynodoniesis)
The couch grass mites are microscopic lawn pests and are seldom detected until the damage has been done. They lay their eggs during spring and are active in summer when the weather is hot and dry.
These couch lawn pests cause damage by making your lawn look bunchy or to have a “witches’ broom” appearance. You may also notice that the grass seems weak and unhealthy.
How to Control Couch Grass Mites
When mowing, it will help to collect the clippings instead of spreading them back on your lawn. Since the couch grass mites are hard to see, keeping the cuttings out of the lawn may reduce the population of these lawn pests on your grass.
Some also recommend cutting low, but make sure to do it during your lawn grass’ growing season, giving it enough time to recover before it goes dormant.
African Black Beetle (Heteronychus arator)
Also called black lawn beetles, the African black beetles are soil-dwelling and are destructive both as mature insects and at its larval stage.
You will notice the adult beetle when you see shiny hard-shelled dark bugs of about 12 to 15 mm crawling about your lawn. These lawn pests move slowly but are capable of flying.
You can see the darker insides of the larvae through its translucent and shiny exterior. The black beetle larvae are about 10mm wide and can grow to about 25 to 35 mm long.
When you have black beetles on your lawn, you notice the frayed grass blades that they chewed on. However, the larvae cause even more destruction because they feed on the root system and are harder to detect until they have caused damage.
One way to see if you have lawn beetles is to moisten a sheet of cloth and place it over the suspected area overnight. By morning, the beetles, which like moisture, can be found in more significant numbers under the sheet.
Another test is to use soapy water and pour it over the affected area. The soapy water will drive the beetles and larvae to the surface.
How to Control Black Beetles
Some recommend the use of a systemic insecticide in October and March to control the black beetle infestation.
Wireworms are the larvae of some species of adult click beetles. As the name suggests, wireworms are hard, slender and feel like a wire. You will notice distinct segments on its pale body, and its head is reddish-brown. Sometimes they also come in different colours.
Wireworms feed underground and cause damage to the root system of your lawn. Its life cycle varies depending on the species, living for a few weeks up to a couple of years.
They seldom come out during the day and prefer to stay in protected areas. At night they can be seen around sources of light.
How to Control Wireworms
Insecticides can be applied every 2 to 4 weeks around the foundations of houses and all over the lawn to control wireworm infestation.
There is also another method that uses potatoes, but it can be tedious. With this method, potatoes are cut in half, and a stick is inserted in the middle. The potatoes are buried about half an inch into the soil, with the cut side facing down. After 2 to 3 days, wireworms will go into the potatoes, and the potatoes can be removed and thrown away.
Armyworm is the name given to caterpillars of several species of moths:
- Mythimna convecta or the Common armyworm
- Persectania ewingii or the Southern armyworm
- Persectania dyscrita or the Inland armyworm
These lawn pests look similar that they have three light stripes running down their backs, especially when they reach more than 10 mm in length. The only way to make sure what species they are is later in their lifecycle when they become mature moths.
Armyworms look smooth, with little to no hair, and curl up as soon as they are disturbed. They can either be green or brown and even black.
They usually feed on the leaves, and sometimes even the stem. You will notice their presence when you see dry and dead patches on your lawn, or when you can easily pull out the grass.
If there are enough armyworms on your lawn, you may even notice the grass blades move even if there is no wind.
How to Control Armyworms
Armyworms are very destructive and will not stop until they have exhausted the food source in the area. When patches of the lawn die after they have infested that area, they will move on or “march” to an area with healthier turf.
You may need to use a broad-spectrum insecticide, but keep in mind that some pesticides could be toxic to children, pets, and wildlife. It may be used as preventive or remedial.
Keep small children and pets away from the lawn after the insecticide application.
Sod Webworms (Herpetogramma licarsisalis)
The sod webworm is the larva of a small moth, and it can grow up to 25mm long. They have spots on their pale green body.
When they hatch from eggs in the early summer, the sod webworm burrows into the thatch where they stay hidden. The webworms come out and feed at night.
This lawn pest is mostly found on cool-season grass. They cause damage and kill the lawn turf, resulting in brown patches.
How to Control Sod Webworms
You need to focus on the larval stage when controlling the webworms. It is useless to control the moths since they may have already laid their eggs on the turf.
You may use a broad-spectrum pesticide.
Cutworms (Agrotis spp)
The cutworm is a larva of different species of moth. It is round and plump and can be light grey, brown, light brown or black.
They may have stripes along the back or sides. Cutworms may also have some darker spots or markings along its body. The caterpillars can get up to 40mm long.
They are called cutworms because of their feeding habit of eating young plants. They consume not just the leaves but even through the stems, cutting the plant as a result.
Cutworms can propagate for about one to five generations within the year.
You may notice small holes on the lawn where the cutworms have dug in.
Soapy water flushing will work for finding out if you have cutworms on your lawn. Just mix about two tablespoons of liquid detergent to about seven to eight litres of water and pour it over about two square metres of turf.
How to Control Cutworms
If the infestation is not severe and you have the time and patience, you may choose to handpick the caterpillars when it is dark. They usually come out after dark, especially after you watered, or if it has just rained.
You can also use nematodes or insecticides against cutworms, and mow 24 hours before the application.