Send Pests Packing for a Healthy Summer Lawn
Kids are out of school, days are long, and we’re ready to gather outside with family and friends. Whether on the patio by the pool or around the grill, your lawn is likely at the center or your outdoor time. The goal is keeping it free of pests that destroy grass and annoy the rest of us!
Our Turf and Plant Health team evaluates your yard on our first visit to see what disease and insects might be on the march. At any given time, there are thousands of critters invisible to the eye roaming through your grass and shrubs. Some are helpful – like mosquito hawks and ladybugs. No-see-ums and biting ants need to be shown the door.
First let’s talk about what insects are damaging your grass. Remember, of the millions of insects on earth less than 1% are considered harmful and fewer still pose any threat to plants. Still, just one hungry insect species, when left to its own devices, can do plenty of damage to your lawn.
Chewing and Sucking Insects
Insects damage plants by chewing on them or sucking away vital fluids. Japanese Beetles are well-known chewers; aphids are among the most common sucking insects. Our Plant Health technicians will spot sucking insects by the pale green or yellow plants they leave behind. When you see holes in the leaves of your plants, you’re likely dealing with chewing insects.
Insect damage happens either above or below the ground. Like a yard vampire, surface-active insects often do their dirty work during evening hours when it’s cooler. Those chewing below ground will destroy turf by feeding on grass roots.
Grubs, the larvae stage of hundreds of different insects, are sub-surface feeders that feed on grass roots. You’ll know your turf is damaged when it can be easily lifted out of the ground.
Chinch Bugs and Army Worms
When the temperature climbs, chinch bugs and army worms come out to play… and dine on your grass. These two see your Bermuda or St. Augustine as the filet mignon of their summer menu.
Chinch bug damage shows up quickly, with dead areas of the lawn most notable in the hottest, driest portions of the yard, often near street curbs or driveways. Chinch bugs are about 1/5-inch long and light in color, with small black triangular patches on their wings. They use their piercing mouthparts to feed into the base of a turfgrass blade, leaving an injury that appears to us as spreading patches of brown, dead grass.
Army worms feast on Bermuda grass and can leave a pasture or golf course looking as though it’s been swarmed by locust. These caterpillars come from moths, and as adults are active at night. Females lay eggs in masses of 50 to several hundred. The eggs hatch in a few days, and the young larvae begin to feed on leaf tissue. As they grow, they’ll eat entire leaves. While army worms won’t kill your grass, they’ll make it appear scalped.
One of Alabama’s unfortunate moments of infamy came about 1918, when fire ants accidently arrived from Brazil at the Port of Mobile. The rest was painful and annoying history. Whether fire ants or another variety, ants can take over in a flash. These determined creatures will rebuild quickly after a rainstorm, or simply move a few yards away when disturbed. Ant mounds are unsightly and can be detrimental to lawns or patches of lawn that are already struggling to survive. We all know ant stings are painful, especially to children and pets. The good news? We offer treatment products that send ants packing up to four months with a single application.
Ahhh… the bane of Southern existence. Here around Mobile Bay, hot muggy afternoons bring out the bugs and send us scrambling for insect repellent. There are some other smart tactics to encourage mosquitos to buzz off.
Hedges, bushes, and tall grass provide shade that shelters mosquitoes. They need a place to escape heat and sun during the day, so the less shade you offer the less they’ll congregate in your yard. A few tips:
- Keep your hedges and bushes trimmed.
- Mow the yard at least once a week.
- Encourage your neighbors to mow frequently, too.
We all love a water feature in our landscaping. But that water is a lure to mosquito larvae.
- Add goldfish or minnows– they may only last a season but will eat mosquito larvae.
- Keep your pool, sauna or hot tub chlorinated and covered when not in use.
- For small fountains, birdbaths and wading pools make sure to change the water once a week.
- Contact your city or county Mosquito Control department to ensure your street is being sprayed.
No-see-ums (perhaps the best-named pest ever) come in nearly 50 varieties. All of them painful when they bite and impossible to spot (thus the name!) Also called biting midges, punkies, sand flies or biting gnats, no-see-ums are small enough to fit through a mesh screen of windows and doors and can create a bothersome indoors infestation. If you’re tired of insect repellent, try essential oils like lemon, mint, and eucalyptus. You can even combine these with water in a spray bottle and mist your outdoors before spending time outside at dusk or dawn.
Keeping your lawn free of pests makes grass lush and enjoyable for little feet or big gatherings. Talk to us about a Plant and Turf Care Plan to maximize not just your yard’s look but enjoyment!