Welcome back to the Wonderful World of Weed Man! After last week’s departure, we have returned to “The Grass IS Greener Over There!” series. I hope you are ready for crabgrass after our previous two–part article detour. We are picking back up this week with bugs! In fact, we will spin off from this article into a separate series on bugs later in the year. This week will be a brief description about each lawn bug we generally encounter. However, as the series becomes available, you can click on the hyperlink of each lawn insect to learn further details!
For those parents with little children who might be interested in dirt and bugs this will be a great article! My son recently has displayed a talent for finding unusual bugs. If your child has the same talent, you might be handed an unusual lawn bug in the coming weeks. Hopefully, the insect you are presented with will not be one that feeds on your lawn. If it is, you will now be educated to identify the insects that will cause damage to your lawn.
Bugs! What’s the big deal? If you have never had the misfortune of insect damage in your lawn, you might be questioning the concern. Well plainly stated, you spend all this energy and resources on creating and maintaining a beautiful lawn, it would be heartbreaking to have it destroyed by something so tiny. If not caught early or dealt with preventatively, the damage can be very severe, and very costly to fix.
In your lawn right now are a variety of insect species that live within its ecosystem. Most insects are beneficial for your lawn. However, there are some insects that might be in your lawn that love making dinner out of your grass. They can chew on the grass roots (most subsurface insects, i.e. grubs), or even treat your grass blade like a giant straw and suck out the juices within its root system (surface level insects, i.e. chinch bugs). So how do you know if you have them?
I would like to begin, frankly, with where the average homeowner begins when they encounter insect damage – yellowing in the lawn.
The first reaction to seeing this type of yellowing in the lawn, generally, would be to add more water. It looks like it might not be getting enough water. Sometimes dry spots might look like this, but generally they will be more uniform in the discoloration. Insect damage is more sporadic in its discoloration.
The very best thing you can do as a homeowner when you see yellowing in your lawn is to investigate. Assume nothing. If it is in fact damage by insects and you assume it is lack of water, you will waste precious days needed in treating the insects. The damage you are seeing currently is where the insects WERE. They have already chewed out the roots of the grass and it takes time for it discolor. So they have already moved on from the discolored area and are feasting on new areas. If you wait 3 or 4 days or 2 or 3 weeks before figuring out that extra watering isn’t helping you can have some serious real estate destroyed!
Some other telltale signs that you have insects feasting upon your lawn: You might have lots of birds dive bombing your lawn trying to get at the larvae. Though rare, you could even see skunks or raccoons digging up areas of your lawn trying to feed on the bugs. One easy way to test if your lawn has insect damage is to pull up on the damage grass area. If it rolls up like sod or a carpet, then it most likely is insect damage. Great! Now that you know you have insect damage, what do you do? We need to identify, if possible, the actual bug that is doing the damage.
In southwest Idaho, we tend to see white grubs as the main culprit of many insect damaged lawns. We do however get some cooler season insects in fall that will cause problems as well. Most of these bugs may overwinter as adults and lay eggs in the spring or summer. I wanted to list each type of insect we commonly run into as well as a brief rundown of their behaviors.
White Grubs – White grubs are the larvae of Billbugs. Billbugs themselves will eat leaves and grass blades, but when they lay eggs, and those eggs hatch, the larvae are the real instigators of the damage. The billbug will lay it’s eggs just below the surface of the grass. Grubs are subsurface larvae. The grub, as it is growing and morphing into an adult bill bug, will chew on the grass roots for its main source of nutrition. As the grass roots disappear, the plant itself will die. Grubs are particularly terrible because they can have 3 hatchings in each season. Early June, Mid July, and Late August.
Japanese Beetles – Japanese Beetles have been a recent problem in the Boise area. They were not found in Boise until 2012. They behave very similarly to the Billbug. They lay eggs just like the billbug and the larvae damage the lawn in the same way as the grub. The Boise Parks and Recreation website https://parks.cityofboise.org/community-forestry/tree-care/japanese-beetle-information/ has some great information on the Japanese Beetle. If you think you have found one, it will give you directions on contacting the Idaho Department of Agriculture, as they are working to eradicate this bug from our area entirely.
Chinch Bugs – Chinch bugs are significantly less common in our area, but they still show up every year. We have noticed an uptick in how many times we see them over the last few years as well. Chinch bugs are a very tiny insect that exists at the surface level of the lawn. So looking for them deep in the soil won’t work. You have to catch them before they scatter! They are quick and tiny and when you start looking for them they tend to run away when the grass is disturbed. They like sunny areas and may be as numerous as 200 insects per square foot.
Cranberry Girdlers – We run into this critter a few times every year. Cranberry girdlers get their name from the plant they like to eat. Cranberries! Unfortunately, they also like to feast on grasses and even fir trees. They are a subterranean larva. As adults they show in the form of a moth. We usually see them towards the end of summer and into the fall.
Sod Webworm – Though less common, we do run into sod webworms every year as well. They are a surface level larva. They will feed on the grass at the crown level of the plant. Sod webworm are in moth form as adults and are more commonly known as lawn moths.
Once you have identified the type of insect having thanksgiving dinner on your lawn, you can now deal with it! The type of insect may determine the method you use to treat. There are a variety of methods to deal with lawn insects. Some are more effective than others.
- Let nature deal with it – There are some DIY and non-chemical methods to dealing with lawn insects. Unfortunately, the ‘natural’ way is doing nothing as lawn damaging insects ‘naturally’ eat grass.
- Bacteria in your lawn – Milky Spore is bacteria you can introduce into your lawn that will kill the insect potentially within 21 days. Unfortunately, 21 days after finding damage in your lawn will still result in 3 weeks of continued feeding on the lawn. Not a quick or good method.
- Nematodes – nematodes are a parasite that feed on grubs – You can introduce nematodes into your lawn as well to fight grubs, however, you may need multiple applications.
- Home remedies – I have seen recipes such as 1 cup of mouthwash, liquid dish soap, and water. Add 2 cups of lemon juice and put in a spray bottle. Seriously inefficient – But it gets better! You can pour 1 cup of boiling water over a teaspoon of chewing tobacco and add it to the mouthwash solution! That is a lot of work for something that may not work very well, plus how much coverage on your lawn are really getting with a spray bottle. Think about this very carefully. You would be using a spray bottle on your 4000 sq. ft. lawn. You will be making a lot of this mixture to get enough down on the lawn to be effective. I don’t even know if this even works! Sorry for wasting your time on this suggestion. (I don’t have a lot of patience for some diy home remedies. They often are suggested to avoid chemicals, yet use chemicals.)
- Chemical – (as if the last one was not a chemical.) There are great products that are SAFE when applied correctly. Really the best way to deal with grubs is preventatively. 80% of grubs, as adults will lay their eggs in the areas they were hatched in. If you have had grubs in your lawn in the recent past, you will likely get them again. June is a perfect time to get that preventative application down. You can treat them after the fact but it is better to take care of them before they damage the lawn.
There has been a lot of concern about safety when it comes to insecticides. We take safety very seriously when applying treatments on the lawn. Weed Man uses only products for use on home lawns. They are most safely applied in the capable hands of a trained professional like Weed Man.
Studies done by the University of Guelph show that insect control products tend to stay in the thatch layer of the lawn, where harmful turf insects feed. After 24 hours, less than .3% of the product can be dislodged from the lawn. According to the University, there is little movement of insect control products into the root and soil zones.
Your health and safety come first!
If you think you have insect damage on your lawn, or have found any of these damaging creatures, please give Weed Man a call. We would love to help protect your lawn investment. 208-888-9911 www.weedmanboise.com #wecareforyourlawn