Green rolling expanses of grass can be a source of great pride to a homeowner. The health of turf grass requires regular mechanical maintenance as well as fertilizing, herbicides and insecticides. Many lawn types are bred to be resistant to different environmental conditions but may be prone to insect attack. Infestations can destroy root structure and leaves, as well as impact overall lawn health. Proactive pest management on a routine basis is the best defense against bug attack.
One of the biggest lawn pests are grubs, which live underground and feed on roots.There are several varieties and they will cause brown patches in the lawn that come out easily when pulled gently. Several species of beetle begin life as larva that live in the earth surrounding the lawn's roots; adults will feed on the grass. Antworms and cutworms are immature moths and live in thatch. Billbugs also live in the grass and attach to stems or eat roots. Adult billbugs eat the stems and leave holes surrounded by yellow. Ragged-looking grass may be the result of sod webworm larva and occurs mainly in sunny areas of the lawn. Chinch bugs, leafhoppers and greenbug aphids live on top of the grass, and may bleach or discolor the turf. The insect populations will vary depending on region and zone.
Damage from pests can be anywhere from nominal to catastrophic. An outright infestation can kill the turf, and overwintered eggs can contaminate soil and cause problems season after season. Foliar feeding damage will become most obvious after periods of drought because the grass increases its intake of water. Grass will have to be inspected carefully, as visual identification of the insects is crucial. This is because a variety of factors can cause lawn damage that looks similar to insect damage. Overfertilizing, drainage issues, chlorosis, pH problems and animal urine spots are just a few conditions that mimic insect damage.
Pesticides are controls that target specific insects. They are usually considered toxic and should be used sparingly in combination with a natural Integrated Pest Management system. There are all-purpose pesticides, but it is best to treat the individual insect population you are trying to target or a beneficial population can be killed. There are chemical, alternative and biological treatments. Herbs are a useful natural pest repellent and alternative controls include nematodes and bacteria. Chemical control can be found in a wide variety of formulas that are selective for certain insects.
Types of Chemical Control
Most insecticides work by interfering with the nervous system of the insects. These include the organophosphates and carbamites. They are generally used as contact insecticides and directly sprayed onto the grass where insects come in contact with them. Soil drenches are another type of contact insecticide that seeps into the ground where some pests live. Systemic controls can be sprayed or spread and are taken into the grass blades.
Pesticides are useful in controlling some of the turf insects, but a healthy plant is less likely to feel the effects of an infestation. Stressed sod is more apt to become damaged and encourage an infestation. Regular care of the grass, including thatching and aerating, will provide the grass with optimal growing conditions that will reduce the chance of pest problems. Good soil fertility and proper pH will also assist, as will planting a grass whose needs most closely match the planting location.