Insects

The Boring Sod Webworm

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It is another great week at the Wonderful World of Weed Man!  I am happy you could join us.  Last week we discussed the Cranberry Girdler.  Up to this point, we hope you have enjoyed the, “I Found An Alien In My Lawn!” series.  We will be finishing out the series today with information regarding the Sod Web-worm.

This lawn insect just is not very exciting.  Many times it goes unnoticed.  It doesn’t have a cool or catchy name.  It doesn’t come from an exotic land.  It lacks superpowers!  It is just the boring Sod Web-worm.

The Sod Web-worm is sometimes known as the ‘lawn moth’.  As an adult you are more likely to realize they are around as they are a dull brown/grey colored moth with a long snout extending from the head.  Generally, the adult moth will not do any damage to your lawn.  However, the larvae, that hatch from the eggs they lay will do significant damage to your lawn.

The web-worm will generally have 2 generations each year.  The 2nd generation will overwinter as a larva until April the next year.  They survive the winter in the soil and thatch in a silken tunnel.   It will transform into an adult moth around mid-May or June.  They will then hang out in the grass during the day.  In the evening they will flit back and forth across the lawn laying eggs.  The eggs will hatch in 1-2 weeks and the new generation will start the process over again.

Sod_Webworm2202The larvae, as mentioned earlier, will damage the lawn by feasting on grass leaves and stems near the soil surface.  They do this at night, and will hide during the day within a silk, webbed, burrow in the thatch layer.  Thus the name ‘web-worm’.  They do like most types of grasses, including common grasses in our area:  Kentucky Bluegrass, Bent grass, and tall/fine Fescues.  Although the web-worm is active from spring to fall, most of the significant lawn damage occurs in mid to late summer.

The damage from the web-worms will show as a brown spot the size of a baseball.  The grass stems and leaves will have been chewed upon just above the crown.  Homeowners often mistake damage from sod web-worm with dog spots.  However, the web-worm damage will not turn yellow before turning brown like a dog spot would.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources Department of Entomology has some great advice on how to investigate your lawn to see if you have sod web-worm.  “An early sign of potential infestation is sod web-worm moths zig-zagging over the turf at dusk. If a sod web-worm infestation is suspected, closely examine the turf for evidence of insect activity. Small patches of grass will be chewed off at ground level. Fresh clippings and green fecal pellets are also usually present. Examine the thatch layer and top inch of soil for larvae, silken tubes and webbing.”

There is also an easy way to visibly see the sod web-worm if you think you have them.  A solution can be made from 2 gallons of water and 2 tablespoons of liquid dish soap.  Pour the solution of the suspect area.  The larvae are irritated by the solution and they will come to the surface of the lawn.

Once you have discovered your web-worms, what do you do about them?  Here are some good options on resolving this lawn pest:

Natural Predators – Birds eat web-worms!  They can actually reduce the population severely by the time fall rolls around.  Nevertheless, birds dive-bombing your lawn may not be the best option for a quick or clean solution.

Biological Control – Insect Parasitic Nematodes will combat web-worms, much like other lawn eating insects.  This can be applied via a liquid spray – however it is important to pay attention to application instructions.  Nematodes need a very specific environment to be effective.  Temperatures too high or too low can influence how effective their performance will be.  Water levels in soils are important to be aware of too.

Insecticidal Soap – This is a very temporary natural insecticide.  It will irritate and remove the outer layer of the web-worms body, causing it to dehydrate severely and die.  You may have to use several treatments of this or buy a large quantity depending on the area you need to treat.

Chemical Control –  Most insecticides are safe when applied CORRECTLY.  If you are not sure about how to use insecticides safely, please contact a professional for assistance.

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.  If you have an issue with Sod Web-worms, and would like help, please give us a call! www.weedmanboise.com 208-888-9911 #wecareforyourlawn

 

 

 

 

 

Cranberry Girdler, A Delicious Appetizer For Birds!

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Welcome back to the Wonderful Cranberry Girdler Boise.jpgWorld of Weed Man!  For those of you who missed last week’s blog, we discussed the Japanese Beetle in our article, ‘Overseas Beetle Invasion!‘  Today, we are continuing our lawn insect series, ‘I Found an Alien in My Lawn!’ with a discussion about Cranberry Girdlers!  This is the time of year that we usually begin to see them.  We generally do not see a lot of them, they are rare in comparison to other lawn pests.  However, they show up just enough to be a nuisance you want to know about.  In fact, one of our technicians found this little guy just yesterday:

Repeat after me…..’Cranberry Girdler’  It seems strange to say.  It is not a mixed drink, or an appetizer (at least for humans).  What is a Cranberry Girdler?  Where does it get its funny name?  I don’t have cranberries, why are they in my lawn?  All legitimate questions.

Cranberry Girdlers are also known as the subterranean web-worm.  They are typically a pest of cranberry plants.  They like to feast on the plant runners that cranberries spread to obtain water and nutrients.  They will remove the bark of the stem and chew on the tissues which will ‘girdle’ the stem.  This cuts of the flow of water and nutrients to the plant, which can result in death.  It is now obvious how they have acquired their name.

Naming aside, Cranberry Girdlers are not just connoisseurs of the cranberry plant.  They also like to feast upon Douglas Fir Trees and many types of cool season grasses as well.   Kentucky Bluegrass is a favorite of theirs.  Similar to grubs, Adult girdlers will lay several hundred eggs each year in turf grass blades.  The larva will feed upon the crown and roots of the grass.

The cranberry girdler will generally only go through one generation per year.  Adults emerge, as a moth, in mid-June, and will be active for about 6-8 weeks.  The female, after mating, will drop eggs during that time period.  Eggs will hatch within 9-11 days and will move down into the upper soil layer of the grass.  Once cooler temps in October arrive, the larvae will begin to tunnel deeper into the soil and overwinter until the next year.

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The girdler larvae, as they are feeding upon your lawn, will create similar damage to that of the white grub.  The lawn will pull up easily since the root system is being digested by the girdler.  It will appear from the surface as drought damage or a yellowed area.  Typically, most homeowners will realize something isn’t quite right when it does not green up with increased watering.

If you have discovered a Cranberry Girdler in your lawn, it is important to control or eradicate the insect.  Otherwise, it can damage your lawn severely when left unchecked.  Cranberry Girdlers can be controlled with the following methods:

Natural Predators – Birds eat girdlers!  They can actually reduce the population severely by the time fall rolls around.  Nevertheless, birds dive-bombing your lawn may not be the best option for a quick or clean solution.

Biological Control – Insect Parasitic Nematodes will combat Cranberry Girdlers.  This can be applied via a liquid spray – however it is important to pay attention to application instructions.  Nematodes need a very specific environment to be effective.  Temperatures too high or too low can influence how effective their performance will be.  Water levels in soils are important to be aware of too.

Chemical Control –  Most insecticides are safe when applied CORRECTLY.  If you are not sure about how to use insecticides safely, please contact a professional for assistance.

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.  If you have an issue with Cranberry Girdlers, and would like help, please give us a call! www.weedmanboise.com 208-888-9911 #wecareforyourlawn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overseas Beetle Invasion!

Beatles

It is another great week in the Wonderful World of Weed Man!  It’s been hot in the Treasure Valley recently – REALLY HOT!  When the temperatures go up, so do the bug problems.  We are continuing our bug series, “I Found an Alien in My Lawn!”  Last time we wrote about “Defeating the Great and Mighty Billbug!” This week, we will touch on a Beetle Invasion –  very similar lawn bug – the Japanese Beetle.

It is possible that you have never heard of the Japanese Beetle.  They are relatively new to the U.S.  The Japanese Beetle was first noticed in 1916 in New Jersey.  It is thought it came oversees from Japan.   Though it is a highly invasive insect, it normally is found in the eastern U.S.  The State of Idaho has been monitoring for them since 1990, but it was very rare to find them.  Unfortunately, residents of the Treasure Valley had seen an introduction of a large quantity of Japanese Beetles in 2012.

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The Japanese Beetle is very similar to a billbug in a variety of ways.  They are both beetles that lay eggs in turf grass.  The larvae will feed on the turf, then they will transform into an adult beetle.  As larvae they look very similar and the damage to lawns are very similar.  In fact, treatment of larva is very similar as well.  In general, the similarities end there.  As adults the Billbug Beetle and the Japanese Beetle differ in many respects.

While the Billbug as an adult does cause damage to plant life, it is insignificant in comparison to what the Japanese Beetle can do.  Billbugs will feed on grass blades and the damage is generally unnoticeable even in comparison to the damage its own larva will do.  Japanese Beetles, on the other hand, is very destructive.  The Idaho Department of Agriculture, has great information regarding this insect.  ISDA has sent out information regarding why it is so important to keep the Japanese Beetle from gaining a foothold in Idaho. –

“Japanese Beetles (JB) are highly invasive insects from the eastern U.S. that were unexpectedly found in large numbers in Boise beginning in the summer of 2012. In addition to severely damaging turf during their larval stage while feeding on grass roots, adult JB attack and can kill over 300 kinds of ornamental and crop plants, while consuming leaves, fruit and flowers. They especially like roses, berry bushes, grapes and fruit trees. If JB were allowed to establish in the Boise area, the entire state would become quarantined for the pest. This could result in numerous negative implications for Idaho’s plant nursery industry, for homeowners and gardeners, and eventually for Idaho’s agricultural growers and producers.”

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As you can see – the Japanese Beetle is much more damaging potentially than the Billbug – which is why we want to help educate our customers on the insect.  The ISDA is very active in helping eradicate this pest altogether.  They have had several treatment campaigns with very good success since 2012 when the pest was first found.

Japanese Beetles will only have one generation per year.  They lay their eggs in the soil during July and August, and they will hatch and feed from July to October – then they move deeper in the soil to hibernate for the winter.    This is the time of year that we can see the damage from the larva and a perfect opportunity to help the ISDA in their efforts to control this insect.

Treatment for the Japanese Beetle is very similar to the Billbug – and if you have treated your lawn for Billbugs, you shouldn’t have any issues with the Japanese Beetle.  If you have not treated for Billbugs, and have seen insect damage on your lawn, it is important to verify what is causing the damage.  If you think it might be a Japanese Beetle larva, give Weed Man a call.  We can help identify it, and bring a specimen to the ISDA to confirm.

For more information on the Japanese Beetle and ISDA’s success in treatment, visit the ISDA website on the Japanese Beetle Project.

Keep checking back every week to learn more about caring for your lawn!  You can follow us through WordPress, or on Twitter.  #wecareforyourlawn www.weedmanboise.com 208-888-9911

Defeating the Great and Mighty Billbug!

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Welcome back to the Wonderful World of Weed Man!  This week we are continuing our bugs series, I Found an Alien in My Lawn!”  Last week we began our series with an article about chinch bugs, “Treat Chinch Bugs with a Shop Vac!”  This week we will be writing about grubs.

Grubs, aka White Grubs, aka Billbugs – are the #1 cause of insect damage on lawns in the Treasure Valley.  Grubs are small, plump, white larvae which chew on grass roots.  They are the offspring of billbugs – a type of beetle.  Although the billbug itself as an adult won’t damage the lawn, their offspring will.  If you are seeing a lot of billbug beetles in the spring, you can be sure of potential problems in the summer.

The life cycle of a grub will depend on the time of year it hatches.  A late hatching in the year, will often overwinter in the soil as larvae.  In the spring it will emerge, continue to feed again, then become an adult beetle.  The adult will repeat the cycle.  There can be up to 3 hatchings each summer.

As grubs continue to grow and feed the damaged area becomes larger.  Once the roots are destroyed the lawn will have patches of yellow appear.  It looks like the beginnings of a lawn drying out.  Unfortunately, the grubs are actively feeding on the lawn during the warmer parts of the year.  The combination of time of year and how the damage presents results in many homeowners assuming that their lawn just needs more water.

By assuming it needs more water, you will up your watering times or the number of times you water – which could result in a whole host of other lawn problems.  Your lawn will begin to look worse by allowing the grubs to continue to damage the lawn and potentially introducing fungus/disease in your lawn by over-watering.  You can see the quandary you will have on your hands that needs to be remedied.

Here are some examples of grub damaged lawns:

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Diagnosing

So how can you tell that you have grubs?  One of the signs you have an issue would be animals!  Your friendly neighborhood raccoon might be visiting your lawn for what they would consider a tasty treat!  Skunks, raccoons, and birds will show up to your lawn looking for a meal.  Grubs are a natural food source for these critters.  Although it is nice that animals will eat the grubs, but they will damage the lawn in the process – so the natural way to treat grubs isn’t the best option for your lawn.

Another way you can tell you have grubs is from the damaged area itself.  When you begin to see the yellowing in the lawn, you want to inspect the damaged area.  If you can pull up on the damaged area and it peels up like freshly rolled sod, something has been chewing on the roots.  The roots are no longer there to connect it into the soil.  A good way to compare if it pulls up easier than normal is to go to a healthy part of the lawn and pull with the same force to see how different it feels.

Typically, if you inspect the damage area where it meets the healthy part of the lawn you will have a greater likelihood of seeing the grubs when you roll up the grass.  This is an example of what you might see when you look:

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Treatment

So you found grubs, now what?  Well, the best option is to treat preventatively.  There are preventative grub controls available.  This is ALWAYS the best option.  Think of it as an immunization for the lawn.  It won’t prevent billbugs from entering your lawn.  It won’t prevent billbugs from laying their eggs in your lawn.  It won’t prevent the eggs even from hatching.  However, it will take out the grubs once they start feasting on your lawn.  It will knock them out quickly as well.  Preventative Grub Control is a preemptive first strike on grubs!  If you can take care of them before they damage the lawn you will save yourself a lot of time and headache fixing the damage they could have caused.

It is important to know that If you have had grubs in the past you have an 80% chance of having grubs again in the future.  Many grubs will return to the same area they were hatched in to lay their eggs.  Even if you have never had grubs in the past, it is still important to get a preventative treatment.  Your neighbor may have had grubs.  Grubs are no respecter of property lines.  In fact, the adult billbug can travel up to ¼ mile in a day.  You never know when they might show up.

If you failed to do a preventative treatment for grubs, or if some still slipped through the preventative treatment you will begin to see damage on your lawn.  At this point you want to take care of the cause of the damage before it spreads or becomes worse.  A curative treatment will be needed to take care of the grubs.

It is very important to realize that a curative treatment for grubs will do nothing for the lawn other than kill the grubs so they do not continue to feed on the lawn.  IT will not repair the damage.  If your grass is healthy and the damage is limited, it may fully recover on its own.  If the damage is severe, you will need to think about over-seeding your lawn in the fall.  We have a great article on how to repair your lawn: “Lawn Repair or Replace”.

If you think you have a grub problem on your lawn, give us a call!  www.weedmanboise.com 208-888-9911 #wecareforyourlawn

Treat Chinch Bugs with a Shop Vac!

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Welcome to the Wonderful World of Weed Man!  After a week hiatus for the holiday, we are back!  This is the time of year that we see the largest amount of lawn damage.  More often than not it is due to improper watering, either too much or too little.  This is generally easy to fix and a change in watering will yield results within a few days.  But what happens when you see a yellow spot on your lawn and a change in watering is not resolving the issue?  The lawn damage might be a result of insects feasting upon your lawn.

This brings us to this week’s topic!  Bugs!  In fact, this week will start us off on a new series about lawn bugs.  Earlier in the year, our first article series, “The Grass IS Greener Over There!” touched on lawn insects briefly.  Our new series will spin off of the article: “I Found an Alien in My Lawn!”  unpacking everything you need to know about lawn bugs.

I will start us a bit out of order, because I wanted to write about Chinch Bugs first.  Chinch Bugs are significantly a lesser known lawn insect in our area, but are becoming a rising star in the infamous lawn damaging insect arena.  For years in our area, it was a rare occasion for us to see chinch bugs on the lawn.  However, in the last 3-4 years we have been seeing significant increases in chinch bug activity.  It is now the 2nd most common lawn pest we encounter in the area.

So what is a chinch bug?  Chinch are a very small plant eating bug.  They are very difficult to see due to their size and speed.  When you do see them, however, they are easily identifiable.  Generally, the adult chinch is about 1/5” long with black bodies.  They will have white wings folded across their backs, forming a unique ‘X’ shape.  Nymphs (younger insects) have the same shape but lack wings and can have red or orange markings.

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If you ever encounter chinch bugs it will be on your lawn most likely.  They will feast on grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass, fescues, perennial rye grass, and bent-grass – all of which are common to our area.  Before lawns were a commonplace, chinch bugs were a big problem for farmers.  They have originally been a pest for wheat and oat crops, and eventually corn.

They are some of the oldest known insect pests native to North America.  Ohio State University Extension put out a fact sheet detailing that the first records of damage to crops are from the 1780’s.   I found an article from the archives of the Chicago Tribune from 1934: “Spread of Chinch Bugs is Worst in State Since 1860”.   The article details the concern over chinch spreading into the cornfields of Illinois.  This just highlights that even though chinch bugs are a newer problem for lawns in our area, it is not necessarily a new problem overall.

Chinch bug damage closely resembles drought damage more than any other insect damage.  Typically, grub larva damage will produce sporadic yellow spots.  Chinch will produce a yellow/brown spot that looks more like the lawn is suffering from drought.  It will begin as sporadic areas where they are actively feeding.  In many ways it is suffering from drought due to the way the chinch feeds on the lawn.

chinch damage

Chinch bugs will feed on the plant by sucking out the plant sap.  They have a piercing – sucking mouth-part that treats the grass blade like a giant straw.  As it is drawing out plant sap, it deposits through its saliva an anticoagulant into the plant.  This will clog up the grass vascular system blocking water resulting in a withered grass blade.  In its simplest term, the lawn will become drought stressed – it’s just caused by bugs.

The lifecycle of chinch bugs is similar grubs in that it can have multiple generations within a year.  Chinch usually have two generations occur each year, though a longer than normal summer will allow for a 3rd generation sometimes.  Adults from the last generation of the previous year will overwinter until spring temps come up to 50°F.  The adults will then venture out to mate and lay eggs. An adult female can produce 300-500 eggs!  The eggs will hatch after a couple of weeks.  The new adults will lay begin to lay their eggs in mid-July.  The 1st generation chinch offspring will usually die off when it gets too cold, but the 2nd generation offspring complete their development through October and will overwinter for the next year.

As you can see you can have active chinch bugs on your lawn anytime from May through October.

If you are having issues on your lawn and you suspect insect damage, you want to begin with the damaged area and evaluate what is causing it.  If a change in watering is not helping that it may be insects.  The easiest way to tell is to visually inspect that damaged area of the lawn.  You want to find the border between the damaged grass and the healthy grass.  Gently part the grass blades downward so you can see the soil level of the lawn.  Fast moving adults and nymphs will be seen scurrying about the base of the grass stems in groups.  They do move very fast and blend in with the thatch so, you may have to try a few times to catch them.

You can also do a coffee can test.  Take a metal coffee can and cut out the bottom so you can make a tube/pipe.  Insert one end into the ground on the border.  Fill the can up with water.  Within about 5 minutes, if present, chinch bugs will begin to float to the top.

So how do you deal with chinch bugs?

Watering and mowing correctly – I know, I know, you have heard it a million times from us.  “Mow high and water deep” Well we say it because the practice is true and it works.  We will say it a million more.  So if you are not doing it already, do it!

Chinch thrive in hot and dry conditions.  I would suggest just stick to a recommended watering plan to make sure your lawn is at its healthiest.  Mowing high and watering deep helps keep the moisture in your lawn.  This will help keep your lawn from becoming an ideal setting for their buffet.  This will also help resist damage in the first place, and will help recovery from damage after the problem has been resolved.

How you water is important.  In fact, if you look at historical agricultural documents – many farmers reported having chinch bug issues on crops and hoping for a good rain to help eliminate the issue.  Flood irrigation or a good deep rain will damage the small nymphs.  You may have noticed that with the coffee can test some of the smaller chinch began to float – with enough water, you could wash some of them away!

Chinch Resistant Grasses – This may not help you on your current lawn.  However, if you are developing a new lawn or reseeding small areas, there are endophyte-enhanced grass types that can repel chinch bugs.  Rye-grass, tall fescues, or fine fescues are examples of this.

Biological Methods –  Insect predators – chinch bugs are food for Big-eyed bugs. Lady bugs, lacewings, ants, ground beetles and parasitic wasps will also feed on chinch.  I like the idea of lady bugs, because who doesn’t mind them being around?

Other biological methods include introducing a healthy fungus into your lawn – Beauferia bassiana is a naturally occurring parasitic fungus that will attack chinch –
Mechanical Methods – Shop Vac – I’m not kidding – There are those in the industry that recommend this, however I imagine it to be very time consuming, even if caught at the early stages.  Ideally you would suck up the buggers when you find their hotspots.  For those who are loathe to apply chemicals to your lawn, this is a viable option!Elektron_vacuum_cleaner_1916

Chemical Methods – If you have a small infestation you can use the soap/sheet trap method.  You can use 1 oz of dishwashing soap per gallon of water and drench small areas of the lawn where the chinch bugs are.  The chinch will begin to crawl to the surface of the grass to escape the soap.  Lay down a flannel sheet over the treated areas and in about ten minutes the bugs will crawl onto the sheet and their feet become trapped to the flannel.  They can then be vacuumed off or drowned in a bucket.

For those of you who have a larger area to treat or just don’t feel this is feasible for you to do, you can treat with insecticides.  There are several options you can find in a hardware store to help you.  Most insecticides are safe when applied CORRECTLY.  If you are not sure about how to use insecticides safely, please contact a professional for assistance.

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.  If you have an issue with chinch bugs, and would like help, please give us a call!  www.weedmanboise.com 208-888-9911 #wecareforyourlawn

MY Grass ISN’T Greener Over HERE!

 

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Welcome back to the Wonderful World of Weed Man!  This week we have an addendum to our ‘The Grass IS Greener Over There!’ series.  We thought we said all we could say on the subject, and we thought wrong.  It became apparent to me, that we sometimes will get questions on why a homeowner’s lawn just isn’t greening up like they hoped.

Though, uncommon, we do hear a customer say, “My lawn looks worse than my neighbors!  We do exactly what they do!”  Or, “My lawn was WAY better last year, and I’m not doing anything differently than before.”  The frustration is audible, and understandable.  Time, effort, money go into making your lawn beautiful and the results are less than expected.  The bottom line is that you just want your lawn to be healthy and look great!

So what happens when you do everything the same year in and year out and the lawn just isn’t as good as you remember it from its glory days?  What do you do when you do everything right and the grass just isn’t greener?  It’s easy to question the product you are using on the lawn, or even the professional service being used on the lawn.  That’s natural, and even warranted in some instances.  However, not all lawns are the same.  There are also, MANY, MANY variables that play are part in the overall health of your lawn, it may not be the product or professional service that is causing the problem.

It’s important to ask yourself what might be different this year?  Are the kids playing in the sprinklers more or less this year?  Are there any new pets in the household?  Any new animals in the neighborhood?  Have you seen an abundance of wild bunnies in your neighborhood recently?  What is different this year versus last year?

The question being asked may not have a quick or simple answer.  In fact, more often than not – ‘doing the same thing as last year’ turns out to not be as similar as one might think.  Many factors that affect the lawn are rarely the same year in and year out.  To better understand why a lawn might not be up to par, I wanted to talk about some of the outside influences that can affect the health and beauty of your lawn.

Neatly cut grass

Neatly cut grass. Full frame short with wide depth of field.

Fertilizer

Some products are not designed for long term results.  They are designed for color over health.  They will make your lawn green, but not necessarily healthy.  Are you using the exact same product you used in the past or did you switch products?  Is your neighbor using the same product? Not all fertilizers are equal.  Timing is important as well.  Some fertilizers will only last a few weeks, some 6-8 weeks, and others 8-12 weeks.  Watering, soil temperatures, and coating are all factors in the breakdown process of fertilizers.  A fertilizer that lasts 8-12 weeks will tend to run out towards the 8-week mark during the heat of the summer due to the warmer soil temps and increase in watering.  Is your lawn a little overdue for fertilizer?

Soil Type/Conditions

It’s easy to see on the surface if a lawn is doing well or not, however the soil under the surface has an important role in the life of your lawn.  Like fertilizer, not all soils are the same.  Your neighbor might have a claylike soil.  You could have a sandy soil.  Clay soils hold nutrients better, but drain poorly.  Sandy soils are the exact opposite.  Even year to year your soil conditions can change.  Clay soils, since they drain poorly become compact more often.  Did you aerate last year?  This year?  Never aerated?

Mowing

Are you using a mowing company or doing it yourself? Did you sharpen the mower blade this year?  Are you mowing more often when sunlight is on the lawn 16 hours a day which causes it to grow like crazy?  Or letting it grow crazy and then cutting it down really short, stressing your lawn out.

Are you mowing at the same time of day? I have different schedules for work throughout the year so it affects when I can mow my lawn sometimes.  Mowing in the early morning when the lawn is wet is not recommended.  Mowing later in the evening when it is cool is not a good option either.  Your lawn is more susceptible to disease and fungus at night.  When you mow the lawn, it basically has an open wound.  Just what disease and fungus like!

If you are hiring a mowing company, are you using the same one?  Are they mowing at the same time?  Are they mowing at the correct height and frequency for your lawn and the time of year?  Are they sharpening their mower blades regularly?  Do they have a new mowing technician?  Do they regularly clean their equipment?  It’s important to keep in mind that a mower can unknowingly bring in disease from another lawn as well.

Watering

Watering your lawn, is not as simple as turning the timer to the ‘ON’ position and letting it be.  In fact, if you are doing that assuming that last years’ times were adequate, then you have just pinpointed the problem.  How you water in September/October will be different than how you water in March/April and different still for July.

Assuming you have the correct length of time and frequency for the time of year in which you are watering.  You need to consider whether or not others in the neighborhood are watering at the same time.  Are more neighbors watering at the same time this year vs last year resulting in lower pressure. Lower pressure means less water on the lawn in the same length of watering time.

Are you watering during the heat of the day when the water can evaporate up 50% before penetrating into the soil?  Are all your areas getting adequate coverage when the sprinklers are on?  Do you need a sprinkler system tune-up?  Have you checked out the sprinkler system yourself or are you trusting that the watering at 3 am when you are sleeping is working like it’s supposed to.

Weather – This is a variable that is completely out of everyone’s control.  Weather affects your lawn SIGNIFICANTLY.  In fact, it is probably the largest contributing factor for a lawn looking great one year, and not so great the next.  The Treasure Valley, last year, had the hottest June on record since 1869.  We saw temps in June we normally see in July.  That is stressful for the lawn.

This year it is drastically different.  We did have some warm days this month, but lots of cooler than normal days too. We went from a high of 101 to a high of 62 in 7 days.  7 days with a 40-degree variance in the high!  When you extend the highest high to the lowest low that week you went from 101 to 37 in a 7-day period.  Almost a 65-degree variant.  Plants do not like that much of a variance.  It can drastically affect them.   Watering for 100-degree weather is vastly different than watering for 62-degree weather.  Without any effort on your part you may have went from under watering to overwatering within a week, just from not noticing the weather.

Just taking temperature into account it affects how you need to water, and if you aren’t watering to the weather/season you can easily run into lawn issues.  This doesn’t factor in wind, humidity, dew point, or rainfall.

InsectsLawn damaging insects do not respect property lines or lawn history.  Unfortunately, grubs do not care if they have never visited your lawn before.  You don’t have a lot of control in this circumstance other than applying a preventative grub control.  This might be the difference you are seeing in your lawn this year.

Education – What you know about lawn care definitely affects how well your lawn looks.  If you are not very knowledgeable, it can be easy to assume that you are doing everything correct, and there has been no change, therefore the results should be the same.  The exact opposite can be true as well.  Perhaps you know quite a bit about lawn care.  Perhaps you have been doing the same thing for years and it always looks ok, except this year.  Sometimes doing the same thing might be slowly, slightly, damaging your lawn over time.  Perhaps you break a watering rule or a mowing rule.  Just one rule, but it’s broken continually because it never caused a problem in the past.  Shallow frequent watering and short mowing will train your grass roots to sit near the surface and one day your lawn will struggle to grow.

 

If your lawn is not looking the way it used to, you need to figure out what is different.  We bring these variants up, not to shift blame from us a service provider.  We are extremely confident in our products, training, and technicians.   We bring these variables up, because as the expert, we understand what affects your lawn.  It may be something little and easy to fix.

Asking and answering these questions will show you where your lawn might need a little extra help.  Remember, your lawn is a living organism.  It’s easy to talk about on paper, not as easy to treat in real life.  The best question you can ask is:  Did I follow all of Weed Man’s recommendations to have an amazingly beautiful lawn?  If you did, then you would have hired us, in which all you have to do is call us!  We will do a free lawn inspection to determine what is going on with your lawn, so you don’t have to figure it out yourself!

www.weedmanboise.com 208-888-9911 #wecareforyourlawn

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I Found An Alien In My Lawn!

larva of may-bug

White Grub

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 twopart 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.

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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 racoonareas 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.

larva of may-bug

Japanese BeetlesJapanese 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.

Japanese_Beetle_(Popillia_japonica)_-_London,_Ontario_02.jpg

chinch-bug-control1Chinch 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 GirdlersWe 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.

 cranberrygirdler1.jpg

Sod WebwormThough sod-webworm-control1.jpgless 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.)
  5. 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