Reducing Harmful Insects in Your Lawn

If you are an avid gardener or landscaper, the appearance of your lawn is important to you. You also know that regular tending to your yard and soil can produce beautiful, healthy crops. Unfortunately, there are also insects that can take over your garden and ruin your plants and grass. You can maintain the health of your lawn and plants while getting rid of these pests or taking preventative measures to keep these insects away. Here are a few suggestions to try.

How Do Lawns Become Damaged?

A well-manicured lawn is a great way to add curb appeal to your property. However, like with all planting, you can encounter some issues while tending to your garden. Insects that chew on plants, like grasshoppers, can attack blades of grass. Burrowing animals, such as gophers, eat through the roots of the grass, which kills the grass. You can easily spot dying or withering patches of lawn. However, it can be challenging to determine the issues that are damaging the lawn and implement the proper treatment. When you know which insects are prevalent in residential areas, you can treat your yard safely and effectively.

Japanese Beetles

When you see that pieces are missing from your blades of grass, you have to look for clues to determine what is eating the grass. You may see Japanese beetles in the grass, but these insects are likely laying their eggs in the soil. Japanese beetles do not usually eat turf. However, if you see Japanese or June beetles on your raspberries or roses and see patches of dying grass in the lawns, grubs are likely the cause.

Grubs

Grubs are the larvae of June and Japanese beetles. Grubs are also the larvae of other types of beetles. The type of grubs you see in your yard largely depends on the region where you live. Grubs are common in the southwest, Midwest and northeast; the turf is often irrigated in those areas and provides moisture for larvae in otherwise desert soil. Grubs eat the roots of grass, and if you see patches of dry or dying grass, this could be a sign of larvae infestation. If the ground is burrowed, this could be an indication that animals like armadillos and skunks are in your lawn looking for grubs to eat. Nematodes can get rid of grubs; granular pest control and milky spore are effective treatments as well.

Chinch Bugs

These bugs infest in sunny areas and suck the juice from individual grass blades and plants. Chinch bugs also inject toxins in the grass that disconnect the grass from the soil. The bugs are very small – 1/20 of an inch –and have shiny white wings and black bodies. You may not be able to see chinch bugs unless you get down to the grass level. These insects live in the crown or thatch of grass blades. If you cannot see the pests, but notice damage on your lawn using a flotation or drench test will help you detect the insects. Removing thatch in your garden can keep chinch bugs away, and you can use insecticidal soap to rid your lawn of the pests.

Mole Crickets

Mole crickets are especially prevalent in the Southeast. The insects tunneled through the soil and eat dying plant matter and other insects. However, mole crickets also eat grass shoots and roots. If there are mole crickets in your lawn, you will likely see brown patches that are spongy and irregularly shaped. Grass without roots, small tunnels, and dying grass are signs that mole crickets have taken over your turf. A drench test will confirm whether mole crickets are present. Be sure not to overwater the lawn since mole crickets prefer moist soil.

European Crane Fly

European crane flies often infest gardens and laws in the Northwest. Adult crane flies look similar to mosquitos and usually perch on the flat walls of a house or the lawn. Crane fly larvae are leatherjackets; they hatch during the fall and eat grass roots in the winter. European crane flies do much of their damage in the spring. Springtime is the season when your lawn should be thriving; if your grass is stalling in growth, yellowing, and getting weaker, crane flies could be the reason. Bare spots in the lawn could also mean that leatherjackets have taken over your landscape. Check the top three inches of sod for leatherjackets from the end of winter to the middle of spring. Pyrethrins and insecticide soap applied to the lawn can get rid of existing crane flies and prevent new ones from being attracted to your yard. Use a grub killer with azadirachtin is often the most effective treatment for leatherjackets.

Aphids

Aphids are common in gardens and lawns and can cause serious problems. These insects attack several different crops and can cause plant disease. However, aphids are usually easy to control.

Aphids have several natural predators like hoverflieslacewigs and ladybugs. If you have a vegetable garden, plant onions, and garlic since allium plants repel aphids. If aphids have taken over your yard, you can try organic pest controls. Putting a few drops of neem oil in a spray bottle and mixing it with water is a natural repellent. Neem also has antibacterial properties that keep plants healthy. A few drops of dish soap combined with water are another practical solution for getting rid of aphids; spray the solution on plants to prevent these insects from ruining your crops. If you see that aphids are eating away at your plants, mix rosemary, peppermint and clove oil in water and spray the mixture on affected plants. 

Hornworms

Hornworms are common garden pests; these fat green worms know how to camouflage themselves in the garden very well. You may notice hornworm droppings before you see the damage they have done to your lawn. Since the worms know how to hide, it can be hard to find them. These pests eat through plants, which causes the plants to wither and become discolored. Separating the soil and handpicking the worms from your plants helps to control hornworm infestation. Braconid wasps are natural hornworm predators; the wasp larvae feed on the worms. If you see a hornworm covered with white eggs, leave the worm alone; the larvae will consume the hornworm, and you will leave the wasp larvae free to protect your garden. Companion plants also attract the wasps. Cilantro, thyme, oregano, and basil in tomato gardens will appeal to wasps and reduce the hornworm population significantly.

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