When I first learned that I have to take care of a lawn, I thought it was just going to be watering, fertilizing, and mowing - but I realized, there’s actually more. I found out the hard way that I also had to do certain tasks to prevent pests.
Before it comes to the point that you have to buy post-emergent herbicides or call a professional to remove pests that invaded your lawn, you should first try taking preventive measures. To make it easier for you, here are the common pests found in Florida lawns and ways on how you can prevent them.
If you notice yellow or brown patches on your lawn, there’s a high chance it’s infected by chinch bugs. These pests suck fluid from the grass and are most commonly found in St. Augustine and Zoysia grass.
Grass that is water-stressed, water-deprived, or in full sun can get easily invaded by these pests. You should also watch out for the hot and dry parts of your yard or areas near a hard surface such as driveways and sidewalks as these pests thrive there.
To check if they are present in your lawn, look for them at the thatch or the border between the brown and green grass. These pests are tiny, around 3/16 inches as an adult, and have a black and white color.
Once you’re sure, remove the thatch buildup before treating it with a pesticide in the spring. Lightly water your lawn after applying this chemical and then apply pesticide after six weeks to stop the chinch bug life cycle.
How to prevent chinch bug:
- Reduce thatch.
- Do not use excessive fertilizer.
- Use granular lawn pesticide.
Armyworms or moth larvae are small caterpillars with dark heads and light colors. These pests were probably named this way because they move like an army that destroys all the grass they pass. They don’t choose a type of grass and usually appear in the fall and spring.
Their damage results in bare spots across the lawn, but they rarely kill an entire lawn. To check for these pests, flood an area with water and wait for them to appear on the surface.
How to prevent armyworms:
- It is naturally prevented by wasps and other predatory bugs. Pesticides can affect these predators, so be careful when using this chemical.
- Keep your lawn healthy and well-maintained.
Watch out for white grubs or beetle larvae as they feed on the roots of any type of lawn. They can live on different turfgrass species, usually at or below the soil and thatch interface.
If these pests are the cause of the dead areas in your lawn, you would find them curled in a c-shape with a length of one-half to two inches long. For Florida lawns, the common grubs are the june beetle or june bug and the chafer beetle, which is at the lower end of this length range. This means they will be harder to locate than the other types.
Their damage comes in two levels: mild or initial damage that makes your turf look yellow and major damage which leaves large dead areas across your turf.
The second damage usually appears during the latter part of the summer to start of fall, when the turf is stressed due to drought. Lawns with grub problem will have yellow patches all over. Once these pests invade it, you can easily lift the dead patches like a blanket, similar to the video below.
How to prevent white grub:
Apply a synthetic pyrethroid product three to four weeks before the peak beetle season to control adult beetles.
Use preventative treatments around mid-June to mid-July so it’s in the soil before these pests’ eggs hatch.
If you own a Bahia or Bermuda grass lawn, you’ll have to watch out for mole crickets. They can damage other types of grass but they prefer these two. Be wary of these since they can cause serious damage to your lawn as they tunnel through the roots and eat the grass shoots.
It’s hard to determine if mole crickets are the cause of your lawn problems as their damage looks similar to other pests. They use their forelegs to create tunnels across your yard which cuts the roots and pushes up the soil, killing the grass.
There are three types of mole crickets in Florida: southern, tawny, and short-winged. These pests can grow up to an inch long. They spend most of their lives underground but they will be active at night if there was afternoon rain or the lawn was irrigated.
To check if mole crickets are invading your home, pour soapy water on a brown patch. After 10 to 20 minutes, if mole crickets are present, they will appear on the surface.
How to prevent mole crickets:
Use insecticide in the early spring because they lay their eggs in April and May.
Follow it up with another treatment during the start of summer to kill the nymphs before they turn to adult mole crickets. Always water the yard after applying insecticide.
- Plant flowers such as Southern Larraflower plant or Eco-cricket Plant to attract Larra wasps. This predatory bug’s hatchlings will feed on the mole cricket nymphs.
Sod webworms are summer pests that can attack different types of grass such as St. Augustine, Bermuda, and Zoysia. It’s scary for these to invade your lawn as they can quickly thin your turf.
They have a grayish-green caterpillar-like appearance and a length of one inch. These pests will eat during the night and then curl up on the soil in the day.
The common symptoms of a lawn infected by sod webworms are dead patches and silken webs. But to make sure, poke around the grass for any signs of these pests. You can also look at the grass blades if there are any chew marks or scraping.
Don’t worry, the damage they make is reversible. Your grass can quickly recover if you properly irrigate and maintain its health.
How to prevent sod webworms:
- Remove thatch in your lawn.
- Water your lawn in the hot summer months.
- Mow your lawn properly.