You know bugs can be a nuisance for homeowners inside the house but unless you’re dealing with termites, it’s really outside where they do the most damage. Insects can take a beautiful wand and turn it into a wasteland in literally no time at all, so proper identification is the key to stopping an insect infestation before it gets started.
Here’s some common lawn pests you might have heard of but certainly you need to be aware of the first insect. We’ll look at is the southern chinch bug. Chinch bug are the enemy of st. Augustine grass lawns where they usually do most of their damage. Chinch bugs can be seen by the naked eye but they’re extremely small. The youngest nymphs have a distinct red color with a white band in the middle. Moving up the growth cycle, the adults are only about the size of the tip of this pen about four millimeters in length. All the adults are black and some of them have fully developed wings. In this shot there’s an adult chinch bug on this blade of grass but you better look closely or you will not see it. They’re extremely tiny and they’re often infesting during the summer months.
Caterpillars are another sod pest and of all the varieties, two of the most damaging are the sod webworm and the fall armyworm. Sod webworms are about 3/4 to an inch in length. They have four parallel rows of dark spots along the length of their abdomen. Sod web worms are solitary meaning that they will often move around individually and usually live in individual burrows. They emerge from the Burrow and feed at nighttime. Fall armyworms can grow up to one and a half inches in length and they vary in color from light green to black with several stripes along the body. Their heads are marked with a light colored inverted Y shape. You’ll know when you have an infestation of fall armyworms because hundreds of them will be feeding in a group. In broad daylight, you’ll notice a patch of grass that seems to have been stripped of all leaves and in slow progression is getting larger. The damage often first appears near woods or buildings because adult moths usually lay eggs on erected structures in the lawn. Both the sod webworm and fall army worm turn into moss in the adult stage and the moss stage they won’t feed on your grass anymore. But they will lay eggs for the next generation. The sod webworm moth, sometimes called a lawn moth is usually beige in color with a wingspan of about an inch. The fall armyworm moth is ash gray and has a wingspan of about an inch and a half white.
Grubs are a c-shaped larvae of different kinds of scarab beetles found below the soil level. As adult beetles, they’ll eat your ornamental plants and shrubs but at the white grub stage they will feed on the roots and thatch of turf grass. During the spring to fall months, white grubs are also the larvae stage for hunting billbugs, an insect that eats a number of different kinds of grass, but particularly likes to feed on Zoysia and Bermuda grass. Varieties billbug adults are dark colored and are larger and more easily spotted than chinch bugs, but are still small at about 6 to 11 millimeters in length. Billbugs are weevils so you’ll be able to see the distinctive snout or bill at the front end of the head. They can be seen walking around on blades or down at the soil level and sometimes even on the sidewalks next to a lawn mole.
Crickets are about the easiest insects to identify. they can be easy to spot on top of a lawn at about 1 to 2 inches in length. The problem is they spend most of their time digging under the surface and eating the roots and shoots of your grass. You can often see telltale signs of a tunnel by observing trails of dirt rising up in your lawn. Or in this case, in sand spittle bugs are really only a problem in centipede grass where they do most of their damage. adults are dark brown to black. in color fashion, a bright red abdomen that’s visible when the wings are lifted and have two distinct red lines across their backs. Damage done to centipede grass appears in the form of a purple and/or white stripe that runs along the grass blades.
Ground pearl is the last insect we’ll look at. these are the smallest and hardest insects to get rid of. While they may be found that a number of grasses it’s centipede grass that is damaged by them the most. Ground pearls are so tiny that they fit on the face of a penny. A number of them are coated with a wax like substance and are mostly protected from controls like insecticides. The best way to keep these insects away from your lawn is through proper maintenance of the proper watering, proper fertilizing and so on. Healthy grass can better stand up to the abuses by insects and diseases but correct diagnosis is the key and sometimes that means using experts like Clemson University entomologist, dr. JC Chong.
But one of the questions that nobody seems to ask me but I know they have that is: how can I tell whether the damage is caused by the insects or the fungus or the disease? There are so many things that could be wrong with the grass, how do I know which one it is? And of course the answer to that is, you know, you need to get your hands dirty, you need to collect samples, and well, Clemson has the diagnostic service that you can send your samples to. And we’ll find out what’s wrong with it and even give you the recommendation for management. you’ll want to take that sample to your local University Extension office and have them either send it away for analysis or do it right there on site. That will hopefully solve your insect problem for sod solutions.