Types of Lawn Pests and Pest Removal Tips

How to Get Rid of Insects on Your Lawn

If a well fed, properly watered lawn becomes brown despite the care you afford it, odds are underground insects are active. A wide range of insects living below the surface of the soil are liable to attack grass, chewing its roots or sucking up juices from the leaves. 

A lot of people ask the question: Why do some of our nicest lawns have the greatest infestations of white grubs, especially during dry summers? Turf specialists feel that it has a lot to do with soil moisture. The nicest lawns are those that are watered regularly; eggs of turf-damaging beetles—they be Japanese beetles or chafers—require at least 10 to 11% soil moisture to survive.

Popillia japonicaCredit: wikimedia commons

According to entomologists, beetles can hold their egg-laying flights through early summer droughts till a heavy rain comes. Next, the beetles take to the air in search of perfect locations to lay their eggs. Within 16 days the eggs, having sufficient moisture in the soil, swell to four times their original size. That's why manicured, filet mignon-type lawns seem to have a lot of grub problems. 

The term "grub" can pertain to many species of insects. A white grub can be the young or larval state of any number of beetles, as well as Japanese beetle, May or June bug, masked chafer, European chafer, Oriental beetle, Asiatic garden beetle, or others. They are "U"- or "C"-shaped and can be found in the soil just under the turf surface. 

European chaferCredit: wikimedia commons

All these grubs feed on grass roots in late summer and fall. During late autumn, they tunnel deeper into the soil, especially in regions where the soil surface freezes. Then in spring they return to the grass root zone and start feeding. Telltale signs that such pests may have infested your lawn are dug-up turfs, mole tunnels and runways, and visits by skunks who feed on these insects. You can check for the presence of insects or their grubs by rolling back some loose sod in suspect areas and checking whether pests are there. Chinch bug damage is caused by nymph stages of the insect, of which there are five, ranging in size from tiny specks to1/2 inch long, which suck juice from glass blades.


Lawn Insecticides

Several insecticides are available at your garden store, as sprays, in granular form, or as powders for "dusting" the lawn. Check labels carefully for the types of insects which each one controls, and check with your state agricultural college or garden center for newest chemical recommendations. Experience has shown sprays to be reasonably more effective. Chemical control of grubs is hard for the home gardener for a lot of reasons. First, the grubs live in soil that is protected by a sod layer. You don't notice grubs till you see huge, brown, dead spots in the lawn. If a pesticide is utilized, the material should be soaked into the grass-root zone where the grubs are settled. 

In the past, insecticides having a long residual life, like Chlordane, had been used to prevent grub damage. However, at this writing these can no longer be used due to their damage to the environment as a whole. 

If you prefer to use chemical means to fight grubs anyway, early spring, about April, is around the best time to de-grub your lawn. At that time the grubs are still dormant and it is easier to fight them than when they have become active. Most insecticides are poisonous and you must avoid inhaling dusts or sprays. Clean your hands and face and other exposed parts of your body after handling any insecticide. Water your lawn well after application to drench the pesticide into the grass-root zone and get rid of any surface residue.


Natural Controls

Only time will tell what harm has been done to natural predators like birds, animals, and beneficial insects by the use of now-banned pesticides such as DDT, Chlordane, and Dieldrin. We feel that birds are the greatest insect control you can have around your yard. In spring we watch grackles and starlings, as well as robins and other song birds harvesting the lawn of insects. All through the summer, song birds continue "de-bugging" the property as they raise from one to four broods of fledglings with great appetites. 

Providing feeders for birds from late fall until early spring, as well as natural food shrubs and nesting sites for best results. You'll be repaid a thousand times over. Toads, frogs, and dragonflies, as well as wasps and hornets, help to keep your lawn and garden clean of insect pests.


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