6 Pests That Will Suck the Life Out of Your Lawn
Last month, we talked about how cold weather leaves your lawn looking brown and drab. This discoloration looks like a problem, but brown grass during the winter is a normal part of the life cycle of warm season grasses. During the growing season, discolored grass can appear to be caused by dryness or a botched herbicide application, but remember that bugs and insects cause this kind of damage, too.
Some of these pests are easy to spot, but others are quite small. While your lawn will sometimes recover with water and simple turf maintenance, some require a more technical approach. That’s where we can help. At Lawn and Pest Solutions, we sometimes have preventative insecticides to take care of issues before they ever become a problem. Other insects cannot be prevented, but we do have applications available to stop the damage and allow your lawn to recover.
Let’s take a look at some common lawn pests that may be wreaking havoc on your grass as we speak.
Grubs are simply beetle larvae, and they feed voraciously during this phase of a beetle’s life cycle. Adult beetles love healthy lawns because a healthy thatch layer is perfect for holding their eggs. Once hatched, grubs burrow into the soil and feed on the roots of your grass. Without healthy roots, your grass can’t take in water and nutrients, so the grass browns.
Armadillos and moles feed on grubs, so if you’re seeing mole or armadillo activity in your yard, you might have a high grub population, too.
These small, lightly colored caterpillars are moth larvae and can be identified by the upside-down-V shape on their heads. Though fall armyworms rarely kill lawns, they can do extensive damage when they emerge in the late summer and early fall, because they damage your grass as it’s getting ready for its winter dormancy. Fall armyworms are particularly prevalent in Bermuda grass.
Billbugs are small weevils that are partial to Zoysia and Bermuda grasses. Larvae bore into grass stems and feed on roots, while adults chew the stems, rhizomes, and stolons. Signs of billbug infestation pop up late in the growing season, when the weather is hot and dry. Don’t mistake billbug damage for simple drought. If the insects go untreated, the full scope of damage won’t be revealed until spring. By then, it will be too late.
BERMUDA GRASS MITES
Each of these tiny mites checks in at just 1/125 of an inch long, and the problems they cause are often mistaken for damage done by other pests. Bermuda grass mites deposit their eggs under the leaf sheath, causing your grass to take on a strange “witches broom” appearance is it grows. As it’s difficult to control Bermuda grass mites, you’ll need to begin treatment as soon as you see signs of infestation.
Spittlebugs are a little bigger—about half an inch—and are easily identified by dark red eyes and two orange lines across their wings. Spittlebugs use their straw-like mouths to suck juices from your grass, causing infected grass to wilt and develop purple streaks. Then, your grass will yellow before finally turning brown.
Spittlebugs leave a mass of spittle under the grass blades, near the soil surface or in the thatch, and are relatively easy to spot—adult spittlebugs fly up as a mower or fertilizer spreader passes through the grass. Bermuda grass, St. Augustine grass, centipede grass, and Zoysia grass are particularly at risk for spittlebug infestation.
Chinch bug damage shows up during particularly hot, dry summers—where your lawn is water-stressed, in full sun, or both. Adult chinch bugs are tiny with black and white wings.
Chinch bugs are partial to St. Augustine grass, and infestations start showing in July. It’s crucial to treat them at the first sign of damage. Chinch bugs can remain active in winter, so when spring rolls around, they can pick up where they left off the previous season.
When it comes to insect infestations, the priority is quick diagnosis. This can make all of the difference in the recovery of your lawn. If you notice a part of your yard that looks damaged, or even just odd, have a Lawn & Pest Solutions professionals assess the state of your lawn to determine what type of treatment would best solve your problem.
Lawn care is a partnership. In addition to treating your yard for weeds, pests and diseases, we will educate you on what to look for and how to spot problems before they become overwhelming issues. Together, we’ll make your lawn the best it can be.
Spring Dead Spot-Is My Lawn Dying?
Spring dead spot can be alarming when it shows up in your lawn. Spring dead spot is a problem, but no, its presence does not indicate that your lawn is dying. Spring dead spot starts to show up as your lawn greens up. Just as in the photo above, you notice circular patterns that are staying dormant. Often, these patches of dormant grass are so well defined, it may appear that someone sprayed something to cause these circles to appear. Spring dead spot is most common in bermudagrass lawns and putting greens. However, all warm season grasses are susceptible to this disease. It is so aggressive in centipede and St. Augustine grasses that it is often referred to as “take-all” when it shows up in these two grasses.
As turfgrass greens up in the spring, these well-defined areas of brown, “thatchy” looking turf appear. As the spring progresses and the unaffected grass around these spots continues to green, the affected area appears even worse. Sometimes, the brown circles will have green grass blades start appearing in the middle of the spots. This is a good sign that your grass is fighting to recover. Much research has been conducted to learn more about what causes this disease to show up. It is most likely to appear in the spring following a harsh winter, and often is more prevalent on slopes. The fungus that causes spring dead spot actually attacks the grass during the fall, and you have no indication that anything is wrong at that time. When spring arrives, however, the damage has been done.
The best solution with spring dead spot in home lawns is patience. Bermudagrass grows aggressively, so the circular patches in the spring start to fill in as the weather warms. Maintaining a lower cutting height through the spring and mowing on a regular basis will help these spots fill in more quickly. Application of fungicide to these localized spots is not advised, and neither is attempting to add extra fertilizer to these localized spots. Patience and normal maintenance is the best course of action. In some lawns, these spots will appear the following spring, but in other lawns they will not show up every spring. This likely has a lot to do with weather conditions and maintenance practices that you follow in your lawn.
If spring dead spot is a recurring issue in your lawn, there are chemical treatment options available. We do not recommend treatment for this particular disease until you have seen it in successive growing seasons. The fungicides available to treat this disease are very expensive and you are not guaranteed success with treating spring dead spot. Also, the fungicides must be applied in successive applications in the fall rather than in the spring once the spots have already appeared.
Spring dead spot is a disease that can be frustrating for you and your lawn professional alike. It can appear even when you are properly maintaining your lawn. However, the effects of this disease do go away as the growing season progresses. As mentioned above, it can be present in your lawn year after year, but thankfully not to the point that you need to go to the expense of treating it.
If you have strange, brown spots in your lawn that you would like to have assessed, please contact us.