Summary: Above ground a lawn can look beautiful but down below the can be a war going on in which lawn grubs and other enemies are fighting it out!
Question: Our lawn, in general, looks pretty healthy, green with not many weeds to worry about. However, it seems that all of a sudden there will be patches which get a very unhealthy looking gray-green. What could be the cause? Gloria, Alpharetta, Georgia
Answer: Gloria, let’s sandwich a segment of lawn (mentally) between two pieces of glass, much like a scientist would do in studying the habits of insect pests and growing patterns of grass.
This gives us a cross-section of earth, top grass, searching grass roots, grass blades and the insect enemies. With lawns, a struggle is constantly going on, and survival of the fittest is an ever-present law.
Leading the insect enemies are lawn grubs, curiously C-shaped grass-eating vegetarians. Learn how to get rid of lawn grubs here.
In the grub’s somersault-like tunnelings through the earth, just below the soil surface, it is like a soldier advancing toward its goal of destruction.
These common lawn pests are powered for movement in the areas of your turf. Upon its head are two sickle-like jaws which thrust forward, moving earth for its passage, and a set of eating jaws.
Three pairs of slender legs. tipped with single claws, extend from the body, enabling it to burrow through the earth. Its almost transparent body is lined with firm muscles. The bristles on its back help move the grub along.
About one-fourth to one inch in length, the grub is one of the most dangerous insects to lawns. It curls up just below the soil’s surface, eating away at roots.
When earth becomes springy to your step and the grass is no longer green, but a dead brown so dead that it can be rolled back… you know the grub has struck, for the roots have been cut below the surface.
Ants, Wireworms, Rootworms and Root Maggots
Besides the grub are wireworms, rootworms and root maggots. Their “meat” is the small grass roots of your turf areas, but they’ll chew away at vegetables and flowers also.
Another enemy is the ant. Its great numbers make it one of the most common of the lawn insects. In its perpetual digging and depositing of earth upon the surface, the ant destroys grass.
Another digger is the mole cricket, a close relative to the grasshopper. Mole crickets’ shovel-like front legs have one purpose only… the digging of earth. There’s a goal to this digging… the roots of grass, upon which the mole cricket feeds and lays its eggs.
Our look into the earth would also reveal the round and fat sowbug or pillbug, which attacks plant stems and roots near the ground.
Beneath the graceful flight of the lawn moth is its larval stage, the sod webworm. These larvae become eager and mobile green caterpillars. Surface grass is the victim of the sod webworm.
Then there are the cutworms, grassworms, large numbers of armyworms and caterpillar larvae of other moths which hit plant stems just below or just above the ground level. You know they’re there by the ragged and uneven appearance: of what was once smooth and level grass.
Another enemies are the lawn chinch bugs. They suck vital juices from a plant and inject a toxic salivary substance. The mark of chinch bugs is the dried and dead brown patches of grass.
Having pincers like the grubs are the earwigs, brown beetle-like; insects with strong pincers at the end of their abdomens. They go for leaves and other parts of ornamental plants and vegetables, and they work exclusively at night. During the day they rest in the grass.
There are others…
- Leaf miners
- Flea beetles
- Fuller’s rose beetles
- Lace bugs
- Black vine weevils
- Lygus bugs
- White grubs
- White fringed beetles
- Night crawlers
- Japanese beetle
- Lawn mites
- Beetle grubs
… to name a few.
All of these lawn pests can cause great damage on a fine lawn or turf grass.
You can use beneficial insects and insecticide or pesticides to free your lawn from infestations and lawn diseases. Or you can also use a pre-emergent herbicide to get rid of unwanted grass that shields the caterpillars and adults to prevent them from further multiplying.
Today’s homeowner has few pest control options to the “battle zone” going on beneath the soil line. Fortunately we have lawn care professionals with great knowledge of integrated pest management who can analyze your needs and provide a solution for a healthy lawn. If your lawn is having problems call a lawn professional in your area today.