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Insects

by The Dream Lawn (Mantis)

A number of insect species can infest your lawn. Since different types of grasses attract different insects, and there are regional differences as well, it's best to consult with a lawn expert at a local garden center, or call your County Extension Agent for specific identification of insects and recommendations for controlling them.

You can reduce the risk of insect infestations if you follow good cultural practices to maintain a healthy turf. Among conditions which can encourage populations of destructive insect pests are mowing grass too short, overstimulating the grass with fast-release chemical fertilizers, soil compaction, and heavy build-up of thatch. A healthy lawn with thick turf may attract insects but is better able to resist the damage they cause.

Use a blend or mixture of different grass cultivars, rather than a single variety which may be highly susceptible to a particular insect or disease. Seek out the newer turf-type tall fescue cultivars which carry an endophytic fungus that kills chinch bugs, cutworms and other insects that eat grass.

Turf insects are classified into two groups:

  1. Insects which stay on the surface and feed on grass blades and stems above ground. Among these are chinch bugs, aphids, armyworms, cutworms, and sod webworms.
  2. Insects which live at least part of their life cycle in the soil, feeding on grass roots. They include white grubs (the larval stage of Japanese beetles, June bugs, and other beetles) and billbugs.

Inspect your lawn frequently, looking for insects and insect damage. Cut a section of sod about 4" deep and examine the soil around the grass roots. If the lawn appears to be damaged and no insects are apparent, look to environmental factors such as heat and drought for the causes.

Environmental groups have lately turned the spotlight on the enormous amounts of chemical pesticides used each year on America's lawns, by lawn care services and by homeowners themselves. These chemicals are often applied indiscriminately (on lawns that don't need them or at times which are ineffective for the insects they are intended to kill), can cause allergic reactions and other physical problems, and contribute to the long-term pollution of our soil and water supply.

Several benign or relatively safe alternatives are available. To control Japanese beetle grubs, Milky Spore Disease has been widely used; it is a bacterium which infects the grubs and reduces the population of the course of many years. Beneficial Nematodes, sprayed on the affected parts of the lawn, work much faster and kill cutworms, billbugs, June beetle larvae, and army worms as well. Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) and insecticidal soaps may be effective against sod webworm; chinch bugs will disappear if you use your dethatcher often enough to keep the thatch layer insignificant; diatomaceous earth will penetrate soft-bodied insects (aphids, mites and many others) and kill them.


Copyright © 2008 LAF/C.R.S., Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission
from The Dream Lawn, © 1996 Mantis, 1028 Street Road, Southampton, PA 18966.



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