Best Tips to Control Insects for LawnBest Tips to Control Insects for Home Lawn
The home lawn is an ideal environment for a number of insects and related creatures. Some of these animals may be classified as pests; however, many are harmless, and some are beneficial. You should be able to tell the damaging ones from the noninjurious types. This can be difficult, because insect damage may be mistaken for disease, drought, or fertilizer problems. To help you correctly recognize pests, here are descriptions of common lawn insects.
Chinch bugs are damaging pests to St. Augustine grass. They have occurred on grasses such as zoysia, Bermuda, and centipede, but these infestations usually occur where high populations have built upon St. Augustine grass. As the insect sucks the plant juices, it releases a toxin that causes yellowish-brown patches to appear in lawns. If the feeding does not kill the grass, it recovers slowly and the lawn looks bad for a long time. The chinch bug is a sunshine-loving insect and seldom attacks grass in shaded areas.
Chinch bugs are about one-fifth of an inch long. They are black with white wings that are folded over the back. The small nymphs or young chinch bugs are about one-twentieth of an inch long. They are bright red with a white band across their backs.
Check your lawn weekly in the warm months of the year. Part the grass in several locations and watch for the insects as they move into the thatch. You can also cut the bottom from an opened fruit can, embed it 2 to 3 inches deep in a green area adjacent to damaged turf, and fill it with water. If chinch bugs are present, they float to the top after 5 to 10 minutes.
The fall armyworm is damaging during the larval, or worm, phase. It uses chewing-type mouthparts to defoliate the grass blades. You should be on the lookout for this pest, especially if you have bermudagrass, around the first or second week of June. During high outbreak years, it may feed on centipedegrass or St. Augustine grass; however, this is rare.
Fall armyworm adults (moths) are active at night. At this time, the female deposits egg masses containing about 150 eggs on grass stems. Females can lay 1,000 eggs. After hatching, the young larvae feed as a group on the grass blades. The damage at this stage is slight and often goes unnoticed by the homeowner. As the larvae increase in size, they require more food and can strip a lawn in a short time. To prevent this, make regular lawn inspections during this time of year.
Select locations at random throughout the lawn, and examine the grass by rubbing it back and forth with your hand; then part the grass and examine the ground. If you see a coiled light-tan or green to nearly black caterpillar, you probably have fall armyworms. Control is much easier if you find worms early; you also keep lawn damage to a minimum.
Fire ants are a nuisance and sometimes a painful pest to lawn and turf owners. It is unlikely we will eradicate this pest any time soon, but with good management, we can remove the problem associated with it. This involves reducing its populations to tolerable levels by using safe and effective methods of control.
The most successful practice for fire ant control on lawns and turf is to use granular baits in the early spring, followed by soil drenches 3 to 4 weeks later. Early spring application is ideal because it controls newly developed queens before they leave on their nuptial flights and establish new colonies. Killing, or somehow neutralizing the queens, is the only way to eliminate fire ant colonies. Follow-up applications usually are necessary for midsummer and in the fall.
The larval form of this insect, commonly referred to as white grubs, can damage most turfgrasses. The grub feeds below ground on roots, causing the grass to yellow. You can easily lift damaged sod by hand from the ground.
The adult is light brown to black with a reddish tinge behind its head. Flights occur from late April to early May and about mid-May. The grub is white except for the last two segments of the abdomen, which are dark gray. When found in soil, it is rather inactive and will be curled in the shape of a “c.”
This insect feeds on grassroots, and chances for problems are greater on the sandier coastal soils. Adult mole crickets are light brown, often tinged with green. The front legs are short with shovel-like feet well adapted for digging. The young, or nymphs, are identical to the adult except smaller. Infestations may first be detected by walking across areas that have a feel of fluffiness to the sod. Closer examination reveals holes in the ground about the size of a pencil, burrowing trails, and damaged root systems. The adult and nymphs can be damaging.
To check for this insect, use 1 ounce of liquid dishwashing soap to 2 gallons of water. Pour this solution slowly over about 4 square feet of the suspected area. If mole crickets are present, they will crawl to the soil surface.
Snails and Slugs
These creatures do not damage turf, but they can be annoying. These pests, which are not insects, leave a trail of viscous material that appears as a silver trail when dry. They can damage bedding plants by feeding on young, tender leaves. Snails are about 1 inch long with spiral shells. Slugs can vary in length from half an inch to 4 inches. They look like snails except they do not have the shells on their backs.
Snails and slugs are active at night. During the day, they can be found under mulch, in the grass along sidewalks or patio edges, or under any object that may be in the lawn.
Sod webworms are the larval, or worm, stage of a small night-flying moth. The moth is about three-fourths of an inch long, cigar-shaped, and gray. It has two noticeable finger-like projections on the front of the head. You may see it during the day while mowing or walking across the lawn. The moth flies short distances in a zig-zag pattern before settling quickly back into the grass.
The webworm larvae generally feed at night and prefer areas that receive plenty of direct sunlight during the day. Problems seldom develop in shaded areas. During the day the larvae may be found in small silken tunnels in grass thatch. They feed on grass blades next to these tunnels by clipping it off at the thatch line. The injury appears as small brown patches about the size of a softball. This insect attacks bermudagrass and zoysiagrass.
Ticks and Fleas
Fleas and ticks are carried from lawn to lawn by dogs and cats. They are blood feeders and bite people. Ticks have extremely high reproductive potential. For example, one adult female, depending on the type, may lay as many as 3,000 to 5,000 eggs in 2 weeks. These take about 35 to 40 days to hatch. After hatching, the young ticks tend to climb and may climb up grass, shrubs, or sides of the house.
Adult fleas feed on blood, while the larvae feed on bits of organic material or dried blood in and around bedding areas. If not controlled on the pets, infestations of fleas can reach high levels.
Best Pests and Insects Control Tips
Controlling lawn pests depends on getting the insecticide to the target. Insects (such as white grubs and chinch bugs) feed at or below the soil line. It is important in situations like these to use enough water to ensure penetration. This often calls for using 15 to 20 gallons of water per 1,000 square feet. A hose-on-type of the sprayer is ideal for applying this much water. If you can apply materials only in small volumes of water, mow the grass first and thoroughly water the affected area before applying insecticides. Granular materials are heavy and settle deep into the thatch; however, watering after application ensures good penetration.
To control lawn pests, first, determine which pest is involved then select one of the insecticides from the chart. When using one of these materials, be sure to use good safety practices. Keep these points in mind:
- Pick up containers that may be used for feeding or watering pets before making the applications.
- Let the area dry before using it for outside activities.
- Use correct rates. This calls for measuring the material (tablespoons or ounces) as you put it into the sprayer. Guessing is not good enough.
- Check the label for information that will help you get the desired results–safe insect control.
Lawn Pest Control
As with weeds, there are a wide variety of insects that either visit or inhabit lawns. Most of them are benign or beneficial, but some–such as deer, moles, and gophers–can be pests.
When is it a pest?
Pest refers to an insect, animal, plant or micro-organism that causes problems in the garden.
Beneficials are organisms in the air, on the ground or in the soil that do good things for your garden, like pollinating flowers, feeding on insect pests, or improving the soil.
Some pests are also beneficial. For example, yellow jackets are both predators of pests and painful to humans. When considering any controls, weigh a creature’s damage against damage to the entire community of garden life.
Insects, spiders, and other crawling or flying creatures are a vital part of healthy gardens. Most perform important jobs like pollinating flowers, recycling nutrients and eating pests. In fact, less than 1% of garden insects actually damage plants. Unfortunately, the pesticides often used to control pests and weeds are also toxic to beneficial garden life – and may harm people, pets, salmon and other wildlife as well.
What to Do if a Pest Problem Develops
Use Physical Controls First. Many pests can be kept away from plants with barriers or traps, or controlled by simply removing infested plant parts. These controls generally have no adverse impact on beneficial garden life, people or the environment.
Pests and diseased plant parts can be picked, washed or vacuumed off plants to control infestations. In fact, pulling weeds is natural pest control!
” Pruning out infestations of tent caterpillars is effective on a small scale. Control leaf miners on beets or chard by picking infected leaves. Put infestations in the garbage or curbside yard waste collection containers – not in home compost piles, which do not get hot enough to destroy pests.
” Washing aphids off plants with a strong spray of water from a hose can reduce damage. Repeated washings may be required, as this process does not kill the aphids.
It is possible to trap enough pests like moths and slugs to keep them under control. You can also use traps for monitoring pest numbers to determine when controls may be necessary. Two simple and effective pest traps include:
” Cardboard or burlap wrapped around apple tree trunks in summer and fall will fool coddling moth larvae into thinking that they have found a safe place to spin their cocoons as they crawl down the tree to pupate. Traps can be peeled away periodically to remove cocoons.
” Slug traps drown slugs in beer or in a mixture of yeast or water.
It is often practical to physically keep pests away from plants. Barriers range from 5-cm cardboard “collars’ around plants for keeping cut-worms away to 2.5-meter fences for excluding deer.
” Floating row covers are lightweight fabrics that let the light, air, and water reach plants while keeping pests away – they are useful for pests like rust flies on carrots, leaf miners on spinach, and root maggots on cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower.
” Mesh netting keeps birds away from berries and small fruit trees.
” A band of sticky material around tree trunks stops ants from climbing trees and introducing disease-carrying aphids.
A variety of homemade and commercial preparations can be used to keep pests away from plants. Many gardeners claim repellants work, although some are not consistently effective in scientific trials.
A mixture of raw eggs blended with water produces a taste and odor that offend deer; some gardeners add garlic and hot pepper. Spraying this mix onto plant foliage can repel deer for several weeks, or until it is washed off by rain or sprinklers.
Garlic oil and extracts are used to repel a variety of insect pests, and also work as fungicides.
Meet the Beneficial!
Spraying any pesticide may kill more beneficial than pests. Think twice before you spray.
Use Least-Toxic Pesticides When Physical Controls Don’t Work
The pesticides listed below have low toxicity or break down quickly into safe byproducts when exposed to sunlight or the soil, and are the least likely to have adverse effects. However, even these pesticides can be toxic to beneficial garden life, people, pets and other animals – especially fish. They should be used carefully and kept out of streams and lakes.
Soaps, Oils, and Minerals
” Horticultural oils smother mites, aphids and their eggs, scales, leaf miners, mealybugs and many other pests; they have little effect on most beneficial insects.
” Horticultural soaps dry out aphids, whiteflies, earwigs and other soft-bodied insects. They must be sprayed directly onto the pests to work, so repeated applications may be necessary. There are also soap-based fungicides and herbicides.
” Sulfur controls many fungal diseases such as scab, rust, leaf curl and powdery mildew without harming most animals and beneficial. For greater effectiveness, sulfur can be mixed with lime. Sulfur is also frequently combined with other materials to create more toxic fungicides.
” Baking soda (1 teaspoon) mixed with dishwashing liquid (a few drops) and water (1 liter) has been used by rose growers to prevent mildew. A commercial product is also available that contains potassium bicarbonate, which is similar to baking soda.
” Iron phosphate slug baits are less toxic than other slug baits and not as hazardous to dogs.
These plant-derived insecticides degrade quickly in the sun or soil. However, most are initially toxic to people, animals, fish, and beneficial garden life. Use cautiously and follow label directions closely, just as when applying synthetic pesticides.
” Neem oil kills and disrupts feeding and mating of many insects, including some beneficial. Also an effective fungicide, neem oil is the botanical that is least toxic to people, animals, birds, and fish.
” Pyrethrum, ryania, and sabadilla kill many tough pests but are also quite toxic to beneficial insects, people, fish, and other animals. These pesticides should only be used as a last resort.
” Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a common, commercially available bacterium that poisons caterpillar pests, including cutworms, armyworms, tent caterpillars, cabbage loopers, and corn earworms. Bt is not toxic to people, animals, fish or insects – although it can kill caterpillars of non-pest butterflies and moths.
” Predatory nematodes kill a wide variety of pests, including cutworms, armyworms, root maggots, crane fly larvae, root weevil larvae, and other soil-dwelling pests. Proper soil temperature and moisture are required for nematodes to be effective.
” Beauveria bassiana is a commercially available fungus that destroys an extensive range of pest insects.
” Beneficial insects like ladybugs and lacewings can be purchased and released. A healthy and diverse garden will usually have lots of them around already.
Compost teas use compost organisms to help control leaf and root diseases. They are sometimes effective, and they won’t harm any beneficial organisms.
Lawn Care Basics – Understanding Your Lawn
To help you better understand your lawn, there are three questions you should ask yourself. First, what kind of climate is your lawn growing in? Two, what kind of soil (ground) do you have? And third, what kind of grass that grows well (in your particular climate and in the type of soil you have) do you want to have? The answers to all three of these questions can have a dramatic influence on your lawn. For this reason, it is necessary to understand each of these areas before you proceed to the others.
The first thing you’ll want to assess is the climate in which you live. Are you in an arid desert region with sandy soil where only a few hardy types of grasses will survive? Or do you live in a lush tropical area with rich soil, where the biggest problem might be narrowing down the choices of grasses and keeping out weeds? Maybe you live in a temperate climate like Scott and Bud do, with soil that could be either acidic or alkaline, and you have your pick of a fair assortment of grasses for a lawn.
Most of us have a good idea of what kind of climate we live in simply because, well, we live in it. So does your lawn. But unlike you, your lawn can’t turn on the air conditioning when it’s to hot or put on a coat when it’s cold. Therefore, it’s important to understand the impact that your climate will have on your lawn, and what lawn is best suited for your climate and needs.
There’s an old gardener’s joke that “soil” is what you grow your plants in, and “dirt” is what’s under your fingernails. Seriously, though, everything begins with the soil. Once you understand the basics of soil science and begin to apply what you’ve learned, plants will start to grow much better for you. Regardless of the climate, you live in, growing conditions can usually be improved if your existing soil is amended with organic material. The most commonly used soil amendments are peat moss, mushroom manure, and sand.
Table of Contents
- 1 Best Tips to Control Insects for Lawn
- 2 Lawn Pest Control
- 3 Lawn Care Basics – Understanding Your Lawn