Not all lawns have grub infestations that warrant control. Lawns differ in susceptibility to white grubs because of differences in grass species, soil health, irrigation, amount of sun or shade, traffic, etc. A dense stand of grass with a healthy root system can generally tolerate up to 10 grubs per square foot, although skunks, raccoons, birds and moles sometimes damage turf, seeking grubs in lower densities.
To determine how many grubs you have in your lawn you can use a flat spade to cut back a sample of turf. Count the grubs in the top 3 inches of soil and replace and water the turf. If you take a 6" X 6" sample (1/4 of a square foot), a grub density of more than 2-3 per sample probably warrants treatment. Take a dozen or so samples throughout the lawn area to determine which areas may need treatment.
There are several white grub species, Japanese beetles and Oriental beetles are the most common species, but we find quite a few Asiatic garden beetles and European chafers as well. It is best to get your grubs identified to the species level to optimize choice of insecticide against these pests.
The chinch bug is a common lawn pest that sucks sap from grass with its piercing mouthpiece. Chinch bug damage gives the appearance of small round dead patches (brownish-yellow grass) and opens up areas for weeds to become established. When not controlled, large sections of lawn may die. This is particularly true of sunny, dry areas near slopes and the edge of lawns. Chinch bugs also cause damage when they feed and inject a toxic saliva into the grass causing it to wilt and die. Population size depends on the weather, with only small populations being produced under wet conditions. However, if the weather is hot and dry early in the season with minimal amounts of rainfall, a large population may occur.
Adult chinch bugs are black with shiny white wing covers Chinch bugs are found feeding on the soil surface and on tips of grass.
It is easy to confuse improper lawn care with chinch bug damage. Therefore, it is important to monitor your lawn to determine if damage is caused by chinch bugs or lack of moisture and/or over-fertilizing. Begin monitoring for chinch bugs in June before populations reach high numbers. There are several effective monitoring methods to try if you suspect chinch bugs are attacking your lawn. One option is to take a large can, cut both ends off and push it down into the top layer of the lawn. Pick an area of the lawn where brown-yellow or dead patches of grass meet green healthy grass, as this is where chinch bugs can be found. Fill the can with water and watch for chinch bugs to float to the top.
Another option involves first drenching the damaged area with soapy water. Then place white flannel sheets over the area and within 15 to 20 minutes chinch bugs will be attaching themselves to the sheet to escape the soap. Finally, when large numbers of chinch bugs are present, they are found in sections of the lawn where the healthy grass meets the damaged sections.
A well fertilized and nutrient-rich area can withstand a chinch bug attack. Thus, good lawn care is the best prevention against chinch bug damage. Understanding chinch bugs, the conditions they favour and their life cycle is very helpful in control. Keep the lawn well fertilized and take caution not to add too much or too little nitrogen. Use proper mowing techniques which include cutting grass two to four inches (6-7 1/2 cm) high, removing thatch, maintaining proper moisture levels, avoiding water buildup, aerating the lawn if it is compacted and using a resistant variety of grass.
If you are establishing a new lawn or reseeding an old one, use a resistant variety of grass which will offer protection against attack by chinch bugs. An example of a resistant variety is an endophytic grass which contains a fungus that repels attack by chinch bugs and other insects.
There are several species of caterpillars called sod webworms that can be highly destructive pests to your lawn. They may also become important pests of grass covered parks, cemeteries, golf courses. Damage to grass is caused by the feeding of the larval or "worm" stage. The adult moth does not cause damage to turf, other plants or clothing.
The damage caused by sod webworms may first appear in early spring. The damage shows up as small dead patches of grass among the normally growing grass. The summer generation may cause general turf thinning or even irregular dead patches in late June into early August. Sod webworms prefer sunny areas and the larvae are often found on south facing, steep slopes and banks, where it is hot and dry. Heavily shaded turf is seldom attacked by the larvae.
The most severe damage usually shows up in July and August when the temperature is hot and the grass is not growing vigorously. In fact, most sod webworm damage is mistaken for heat and drought stress. Sod webworm-damaged lawns may recover slowly, without irrigation and light fertilizations.
The general thinning of turf is usually not associated with sod webworm activity, and thus, goes undiagnosed. The sod webworm caterpillars live in tunnels constructed in turf thatch or extending to the soil under the turf. These tunnels are silk lined and the webbing joins soil particles and leaves together. The larvae emerge from these burrows to chew grass blades off just above the thatch line, usually at night.In thick, green turf, injury appears as small brown patches about the size of a quarter to three inches in diameter. When many larvae are present in mid- summer, the small brown patches run together and form large irregular, thin and brown areas.The general thinning of turf is usually not associated with sod webworm activity, and thus, goes undiagnosed. The sod webworm caterpillars live in tunnels constructed in turf thatch or extending to the soil under the turf. These tunnels are silk lined and the webbing joins soil particles and leaves together. The larvae emerge from these burrows to chew grass blades off just above the thatch line, usually at night.
In thick, green turf, injury appears as small brown patches about the size of a quarter to three inches in diameter. When many larvae are present in mid- summer, the small brown patches run together and form large irregular, thin and brown areas.
The surest way to tell if you have sod webworms is to find a suspected area of infestation (brown patches). Get down on your hands and knees, take your two index fingers and part the grass blades in the area between dead and live grass and look for an area with small green pellets. The pellets, called frass, are the excrement of the larvae and indicate that a larva is close by. Sod webworm adults are about 3/4-inch long, cigar-shaped and buff-colored moths. They typically roll their wings around the body when resting on a grass blade.
If you still suspect sod webworm activity but are unable to find the larvae or their frass, use a soap disclosing drench. Simply mix up two gallons of tap water with two tablespoons of liquid dishwashing detergent. Sprinkle this mix over a one square yard of the affected turf. Within a couple of minutes, the flesh-colored, spotted larvae will wriggle to the surface. If you get 10 to 15 larvae in a one square yard of turf, treatment is warranted.
There are many species of ants which occur in lawns and other turfgrass areas. Most ants do not require controls and are considered beneficial. Ants move approximately the same amount of soil as earthworms, loosening the soil in the process and increasing air and water movement into the ground. They keep the ecosystem clean of dead insect carcasses and aid in the destruction and decomposition of plant and animal matter. By carrying bits of plants and animal remains into their nests, the soil is fertilized and nutrients recycled through the ecosystem. And finally, ants are among the leading predators of other insects, helping to keep pest populations low.
However, ants may become a nuisance by constructing mounds or small hills in the lawn or by invading the home in search of food. The ants found in Iowa lawns are not biting or stinging pests. The fire ants of the southern U.S., well known for their aggressive behavior and painful stings, are not present in Iowa.
Ants are social insects that live in well-organized colonies. Nearly all of the ants in a colony are the wingless sterile females, called workers, typically seen on or around an ant hill. They do the work of the colony which includes enlarging and maintaining the nest, caring for the queen’s offspring (larvae that reside within the nest), and searching for food to bring back to the nest. In the spring or fall ant colonies may produce winged males and females called swarmers. These harmless reproductives disperse from a well-established nest to begin new colonies.
Ant Mounds. Soil nesting ants construct mounds or small hills by bringing granulated soil to the surface from the nest below. These mounds may be unsightly, may cause lawn unevenness, and if large, may smoother out the surrounding grass.
To avoid some of the worst ant hill activity rake or “wash” (with a water stream from the garden hose) on a regular and frequent basis ant hills that appear above the grass tops. The need for such maintenance will be greatest during periods of prolific ant nesting activity (such as during periods of wet spring weather). If necessary, you can spot treat ant hills with an insecticide such as diazinon or Dursban. Rake the ant hill flat and sprinkle granules onto the soil surface or drench the mound area with diluted solution. Read and carefully follow instructions on the insecticide label. If granules were used, rake the area lightly after application. Irrigate the mound area to move the insecticide ingredient into the soil and away from the surface where it may be exposed to people, pets or wildlife. Keep children and pets away from the treated area until the grass has dried. Ant mounds can also be treated by pest control operators or lawn care professionals. Overall lawn treatments specifically for ant colonies are seldom necessary.
While there are many species of mites which live in lawns and gardens and cause no harm whatsoever, and with many which provide beneficial and natural control of other pests, there are three main types of mite which can cause extreme problems to home turf amongst most grass types. These are the Clover Mites, Banks Grass Mite and the Brown Wheat Mite.
Damage caused by mites is often dependant of their type, Brown Wheat Mites can be found across all areas of turf and usually create small areas of damage where the grass can begin turning brown or even die off. Almost all damage caused by this mite always occurs in the cooler weather of Spring.
Banks Grass Mite is most often green in color and causes a massive amount of damage to lawns whose grass blades become stiff, brown in color and seem to snap off when trodden on. The area of damage can be quite large when attacks suddenly occur which is usually in most warmer weather conditions throughout the growing season.
Clover Mite damage is usually found to be close to homes or trees, and most usually looks like the lawn is drying out in the affected areas, and usually only in Spring. Clover mites are most noticeable for bring about the size of a grain of sand and are red in color, they often invade homes and buildings when the weather starts to warm up. If they are trodden on they produce an awful brown or red stain.
All species of mites can be most easily controlled by ensuring that adequate water is applied throughout the year. This also includes Fall and even Winter if necessary in your particular region. Mites thrive in drier conditions, and often in the cooler seasons when lawns have less requirement for water is when explosions of mite populations can occur.
Most damage can also be controlled by ensuring excellent lawn health from good lawn care practices. In many cases this allows the lawn to out-compete and out-survive any damage caused by mites, quickly repairing itself as the damage is actually occurring so mite damage becomes barely noticeable or not noticeable at all.
Ticks are tiny arachnids that live on the blood of mammals and birds. They are often found in grass, shrubs and small trees, and can be a great nuisance to domestic pets. Unfortunately, ticks can carry a variety of diseases, such as Lyme disease, babsiosis and meningoencephalitis, all which can be fatal to mammals. If your lawn or nearby landscape has a tick infestation, there are several eradication methods you can utilize, including chemical spraying and mowing.
Cut your lawn regularly. During summer months, ticks thrive in long grass. By cutting the grass, ticks have less ability to move onto hosts. In addition, a short lawn will reduce the amount of pesticide treatment you need to use to kill the ticks.
Remove empty bird and rodent nests. Ticks that were able to infest nesting areas will essentially wait for another host to touch the nesting area. By removing these nests, you will also remove the ticks.
Remove tall vegetation surrounding your lawn. While it is important to cut your grass regularly, ticks also wait for hosts in other tall vegetation, such as small trees and shrubs. The more tall vegetation that you remove from your lawn, the more ticks you prevent from entering your lawn.
Treat grass and shrubs with a generic pesticide or insecticide. Most generic chemical sprays will work to kill ticks, and should say so on the bottle. Because ticks can often detect when a pesticide is being sprayed on a lawn or shrub, it is important to use the pesticide thoroughly on your lawn, covering the entire lawn down to the soil.
Keep one or two guinea fowl on your property. Guinea fowl (or guinea hens) are large birds that eat bugs, and they seem to have an especially good appetite for ticks. If you have a large property and a significant amount of lawn that often gets infested with ticks, keeping one or two guinea fowl on your lawn can be the easiest and quickest way to get rid of the infestation.
YOU WILL SEE FLEAS HATCHING ON DAYS FOLLOWING SPRAY TREATMENT.
One of the most common complaints comes from people who have just sprayed their lawn for fleas or had the lawn treated by a pest control service. Many people expect to never see another flea, as soon as their lawn has been sprayed. It does not matter whether they sprayed their own lawn or hired a professional for the flea treatment, they still expect to see miracles immediately after the spray treatment.
Seeing fleas after treatment is quite normal and does not mean that your flea control products not working. Adult fleas and a few flea larvae are killed by coming into contact with your insecticide, usually within a couple of hours after coming into contact with the flea spray. Flea pupae are water-tight and are not affected by your spray. Expect to see fleas after you spray - this is normal!!
In areas where fleas are always a problem (due to stray cats, squirrels, rodents or other wildlife) an IGR that contains Nylar can help long term control of flea eggs and flea larvae.
Insecticides kill adult fleas; IGR controls eggs and larvae; nothing kills flea pupae!
Imagine that there are thousands of water-tight cocoons (larvae) scattered over your lawn. Inside of these cocoons are fleas, in different stages of their development. While some of the cocoons contain flea larvae that have just recently built their cocoon, others have grown into fully developed adult fleas.
As these fully developed fleas feel the heat, humidity, vibrations and other signals that a possible host is nearby, they will hatch out of their protected pupa casing to locate a blood meal. If the lawn has been properly sprayed, these newly emerged fleas will eventually move through the pesticide material where they will accumulate a lethal dose of the insecticide.
NOT ALL FLEAS WILL EMERGE FROM THEIR PUPAE AT THE SAME TIME. Many people think that all the fleas in their lawn will go through a cycle that has the fleas emerging at the same time. It is true that all fleas go through this cycle - but not all at the same time.
There are hundreds or thousands of female fleas in your lawn that have mated and had the necessary blood meals to reproduce. Each mated female flea will lay a few eggs every day, eventually laying 200 to 500 eggs in her life span! It is not rational to believe that two pesticide applications spaced 14 days apart will catch the flea life cycle and immediately exterminate the flea population. The flea life cycle is going on in your lawn literally every few seconds!
After spraying their lawn for fleas, most people report a sudden increase in biting fleas approximately 2 weeks after the pesticide application. This is not due to the life cycle of the flea. It is, however, due to the pesticide beginning to break down to the point where it is no longer showing its best knock-down power. This is why a second spray is often needed, about 14 days from the initial application.