Mold and fungus aren’t the only things leaving brown patches in our Michigan lawns. There are plenty of seemingly harmless critters that cause major damage to our turfgrass. Now’s the ideal time to invest in surface insect control before you lose control of your yard.
Cutworms are the larval or juvenile forms of various moth species that are active at night. But it’s only their larvae that chow down on the grass. Unlike grubs, some cutworms feed at the soil line. Others may feed just below the soil, while still others may venture up the plant to eat. True to their name, a cutworm cuts off plants just above the soil line. During the day, cutworms hide in the plants they’ve felled. Newly planted grass is more susceptible to cutworms because they are not as well established in the lawn and not as sturdy.
Chinch bugs are masters of camouflage, and you may not realize you’ve got an infestation until it’s too late. Adults are about 1/6 of an inch in length, with grayish-black bodies and red legs. Their young, referred to as “nymphs” are incredibly small – no bigger than a pinhead. Nymphs are a brilliant red in color but will turn to gray-black as they mature. Adult chinch bugs also have wings. Chinch bugs like to hide in things like dead leaves or under the thatch layer in your lawn. One way to prevent chinch bugs in the future is to aerate every spring. Their damage is most notable in mid to late summer, as the weather becomes hotter and dryer. Just as we like to sip on drinks to keep us cool, the chinch bugs will suck out the juices from your turfgrass leaves. When they do this, they release a toxin that causes the grass blades to become discolor and eventually die off. As you can imagine, the affected grass won’t stand a chance between the scorching summer heat and the bugs. If you look closely at the browned areas, you may not be able to catch an individual chinch bug, but you might see a large group of them congregating.
Despite their name, sod webworms are not worms in the traditional sense. Also known as “lawn moths,” they start becoming active in May. They look like small light-brown moths about 1/2 to 3/4 inches in length. Like chinch bugs, the larvae of this species cause the damage and give it its name. Sod webworm larvae look like brown or gray caterpillars, about an inch long, and they winter in tunnels hidden amongst the lawn thatch. These tunnels are lined with silk they produce. Spotting the larvae is tricky because they are only active at night, during which time they chew the leaves and stems of the grass. When the sun rises, they head back into their silken tunnels to hide from predators. The biggest sign of sod webworm activity is grass that looks like it’s been mowed too short. While they are just now becoming active, it’s important to treat them now. They will continue to reproduce up until the fall, so by proactively enlisting the help of lawn care services, you can knock out these annoying pests before they become a year-long problem.
You probably know about grubs and how destructive they can be to lawns. Another grub-like insect that often gets mistaken for white grubs is actually billbugs. They cause circular to irregularly shaped dead patches of turf in July and August. The difference between grubs and billbug damage is that grub-infected turf can be peeled back like freshly laid sod. Doing so will reveal white C-shaped larvae. Billbug damage is usually more localized. Adult billbugs are dull gray to black beetles, ¼ to ½ inch long, with a snout or bill. Billbug larvae are white and legless, about 5/8-inch long, with humpbacks that look like fatter grubs. Like the other bugs we’ve discussed, it’s the larvae that cause damage to your grass by eating the inside of the stems, the crowns, or even the roots. And like cutworms, they can snap off the stems at the crown, creating patches of grass that will pull up with little effort.
At Go Green Lawn & Tree Care, we have technicians trained to identify areas of damage and which bug is causing it. We follow an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach to use as few chemicals as possible and give you a more environmentally friendly approach to eradicating these bugs. By combining targeted insecticide use with lawn maintenance, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy an insect-free lawn all year long.
Surface insects can be as damaging as fungal infections in our lawns. Thankfully, the professionals at Go Green Lawn & Tree Care have a solution. Our Surface Insect Control program identifies which bugs are eating your lawn and where they are in their life cycle so we can use the most effective products. If you suspect your lawn is being eaten, give us a call at (248) 387-6296 or leave us a message online. We’ll work with you to find the perfect solution to the problem. If you’re interested in other lawn care or pest control topics, be sure to check out our monthly blog here. And follow us on Twitter and Facebook to keep in the know on the latest deals and offers!