The soil in much of Arkansas is acidic clay and devoid of plant nutrients. Years of farming, development and flooding have stripped many urban areas of nutrients. To counteract the depleted soil, homeowners often have to amend their soils and make frequent fertilizer applications. In short, growing a flourishing lawn in Arkansas can be difficult. Once the lawn is established, there is nothing more frustrating than an insect invasion that can destroy years of hard work in only a few weeks.
The Japanese beetle is an import from Japan that arrived in 1916 and has become a major pest problem throughout the United States and in Arkansas. The insect enjoys skeletonizing foliage including grasses by consuming the leaf and leaving the veins behind. The beetle lays eggs in turf near an adult host feeding site. While Japanese beetle traps are popular, it appears that the traps attract more of the pests to an area than they actually trap, possibly making the problem worse. A natural repellent is garlic and chives, and a popular home remedy is a soap and water mixture.
Red Fire Ants
Imported fire ants are reddish-brown to black insects that announce their arrival by building dome-shaped mounds in sunny, open areas including lawns. The ants are very aggressive and will attack humans and pets without provocation. The bites are painful, result in intense itching and can even cause death. Fire ants currently infest millions of acres in Arkansas and have the potential to establish in areas where temperatures stay above 10 degrees F. Eradication is difficult and can only be achieved by killing the queen. There are chemical means of treating mounds including baits, granules and other chemicals. A non-toxic home method is to pour 3 gallons of boiling water down the mound.
Mole crickets are light brown and have short forelegs and large eyes. Adults lay eggs in underground cells, and the eggs hatch, feed, and grow through the summer. Mole crickets burrow deep in soil during winter then come to the surface during warm periods to feed. The crickets feed on roots just beneath the turf surface. The crickets make small tunnels and will build up in an area, completely destroying the grass. A product for eliminating mole crickets is Talstar.
Sod webworms feed on all turfgrasses, but common Kentucky bluegrass and fine fescues seem to be favorites of this pest. Taller fescues are often targeted but tend to manage to outgrow the damage. In turf, injury will appear as brown patches about the size of a quarter to a few inches wide. Chemical treatment is best directed to the feeding larvae and not the adults. Webworms feed in the evening after dark, so apply poison bait treatments in the evening hours.
The zoysiagrass mite is relatively new to the area, having been introduced to the United States in the 1980s. A microscopic pest that can go undiscovered for long periods of time, the almost invisible tiny worm-like mites infest unexpanded leaves and leaf sheaths of zoysiagrass. Areas infested with the mite will appear off-color and thin and will display a white or yellow-colored streak along the edge of leaves with the leaf margin rolling inwards. The pests are worse in shaded areas. Chemical control of the mites is possible but difficult, and multiple applications of pesticides are needed for eradication.