Tag Archives: bugs

Insects

By   October 7, 2015

There’s no way around it…your lawn has insects…lots of them…and that’s the way that it should be.

This page will cover only the types of insects that can be harmful to you or your lawn, and how to control them. The key word is control. Your lawn is outdoors and part of nature. There’s no way that you are going to get rid of all of your bugs and our attempts to eradicate the little critters may also remove all the beneficial insects that do more good than the insects we’re trying to remove.

Before we go on, let me express my personal opinion on insecticides. Most of them are poison, and most of the major chemical insecticides have been discovered to have some sort of effect on humans. Many that were once thought to be safe are now known to be hazardous and some are banned in the US. If you need to use an insecticide, read the label carefully, follow the instructions, and use as little as possible.

Here are the most common insects that are found in, on, or under your lawn:

Ants Ants don’t eat your lawn, but their tunnels and hills might be a problem.  Southern lawns might also have Fire Ants, a particularly agressive type that cause painful bites.

anthill

Anthill

Earthworms Earthworms are generally beneficial and don’t harm your lawn. Unfortunately, moles find them very tasty and dig underground tunnels looking for them.

earthworm

Earthworm

Fleas Fleas don’t harm your lawn, but they may fall of of a passing animal and lay eggs which grow up to look for their own animal hosts.

a flea

A flea

Grubs

Grubs are the larvae of several species of beetles. They are whitish or grayish, have brownish heads and brownish or blackish hind parts, and usually lie in a curled position. They hatch from eggs laid in the ground by the female beetles. Most of them spend about 10 months of the year in the ground; some remain in the soil 2 or 3 years. In mild weather they live 1 to 3 inches below the surface of the lawn; in winter they go deeper into the soil.

They burrow around the roots of the grass and feed on them about an inch below the surface of the soil. Moles, skunks, and birds feed on the grubs, and may tear up the sod in searching for them. You can estimate the grub population

grub

Grub

Japanese Beetles The Japanese Beetle is about 1/2 inch long and has a shiny metallic-green body; coppery- brown wings and six small patches of white hairs along each side and the back of the body, just under the edges of the wings. They usually appear after the 4th of July and are active for 4 to 6 weeks.

Japanese Beatles dine mostly on broadleaf plants, where they gather the energy needed to lay eggs that become grubs that feed on your lawn.

japanese beetle

Japanese beetle

Earwigs Earwigs don’t harm your lawn or people but their looks and crawling habit are intimidating to some.

earwig

Earwig

Ticks Ticks aren’t harmful to your lawn, but may fall of of a passing animal and live there until they can find another animal to bite.

tick

Tick

 

Insecticides

By   October 7, 2015

Healthy lawns should require few, if any, insecticide treatments. Insecticides are only a last resort.

If you find that you need to use an insecticide, read the label carefully, take appropriate precautions, use as little as possible, and follow directions carefully. Keep in mind that almost all insecticides are hazardous to humans in one way or another, some are toxic to pets and wildlife, and most kill some of the beneficial insects along with the targeted ones.

Over the years, almost every major insecticide that was once thought to be safe has had either cautions or warnings posted. Many have been banned and for good reason. I’m a do-it-yourselfer, but this is one area that I call in the experts….and I’m not talking about the lawn care companies that send in a bunch of teenagers with a tank truck to drench your lawn.

Commonly used synthetic insecticides include:

  • Dursban: Used for chinch bugs, cutworms, flea beetles, sod webworms, white grubs, armyworms, caterpillars, ticks, fire ants, fleas, wasps, mosquitoes, and ants.
  • Diazinon: Used for billbugs, chinch bugs, cutworms, flea beetles, sod webworms, and white grubs & Japanese beetles.
  • Orthene: Commonly used on cutworms.
  • Sevin: Used for billbugs, white grubs & Japanese beetles, caterpillars, ants, fleas, mosquitoes, and ticks.

In addition, there are some botanical insecticides. These are derived from plants and natural sources, and can still be hazardous:

  • Pyrethrin: Pyrethrin is derived from pyrethrin flowers and is a medium to highly toxic insecticide that will kill many different types (broad-spectrum) of insects at once. It is commonly used to spot-treat areas of a lawn. Try to avoid run-off into areas that contain fish, as it is toxic to them also. Commonly used on white grubs, armyworms, beetles, webworms, green bugs, and caterpillars.
  • Neem: Neem oil is an extract from a neem tree. Neem is relatively low-toxic for animals and is used both for treatment and prevention, mostly for white grubs and caterpillars.
  • Sabadilla: Sabadilla is derived from sabadilla plant seeds. It’s a relatively low-toxic botanical insecticide used on chinch bugs, webworms, armyworms, green bugs, and grasshoppers.

Biological insecticides are much safer, but also a bit more expensive. Biologicals include Endophytes, a fungus that grows in certain varieties of grass, and Bacillus Thuringiensis, commonly referred to as “BT”, is a bacterium that, when ingested, will destroy insects by eating at the inner lining of their guts. It is useful for sod webworms, armyworms, cutworms, and moth larvae. Another form commonly referred to as Milky Spore (Bacillus Popilliae) is used to control white grubs (Japanese Beetles).

Insecticidal soaps are a biodegradable treatment derived from salts of fatty acids. They are usually applied with water and soak the soil to kill the target insects. These soaps work by penetrating the cell-bodies of insects and are usually only effective on soft-bodied insects. Insecticidal soaps are commonly used for white grubs, chinch bugs, sod webworms, and billbugs.

Predatory insects are “good” bugs that eat “bad bugs”. Since most bugs are generally not a nuisance, it is important to understand that nature often has a way to balance itself out. Insects such as ants, ground beetles, ladybugs, wasps, big-eyed bugs, and even animals like birds can be helpful in controlling your “bad” bug populations by either feeding on, or parasitically attacking them. Many pesticides kill these predators if you’re not careful. If you have to use insecticides that can harm or kill these “good” bugs, try to limit the use (if you can) to spot-treatments on limited areas.