Army Worms which infest our lawns are in fact not a worm at all, but are instead the caterpillar of a moth. They are around 1 to 2 inches in length, and their life cycle involves feeding on grass blades and sometimes even the roots and crowns of the lawn during the night and hiding amongst the turf during the day. Army Worms are most noticeable in the Spring, Summer and Fall, however it will be best to try and hunt for them during their two most prominent times of the year when they are thriving, and this will be once in June and then in August.
Turf Grasses Affected By Army Worms
Army Worm infests many different grass types including Fescue, Bluegrass, Ryegrass, Bentgrass, Bermuda Grass and Saint Augustine.
The first time we may begin thinking we are having an Army Worm problem is usually when we live in an area which is well known for it’s Army Worm infestations and we begin noticing those familiar patches of our beautiful lawns are now looking brown and damaged. Large areas of the lawn will continue in the size of damage which is noticeable until we have to go out onto the lawn on our hands and knees to become a detective and find the cause.
The first method of identification involves looking down into the thatch layer of the lawn and close to the soil during the daylight. Army Worm will cover themselves in a light silk cocoon during the day inside the lawns foliage. This same web like cocoon can also be seen in the dew in the early morning while moisture is still evident on the grass.
Another noticeable trait of Army Worms is their pattern of damage is quite unique, as they usually start at the edge of a lawn and travel in a straight line slowly consuming the lawn as it feeds, and often leaving an appearance of a silk or spider web like substance over the lawn.
The final method of determining Army Worm is to fill a bucket with soapy water which is mixed up with some dishwashing liquid, this soapy water is then poured from the bucket over an area of the lawn suspected of having an active Army Worm infestation. Once the soapy water is poured over the lawn you will notice the Army Worms will come to the surface where they can then be counted. An infestation of over 12 per square foot is considered severe and should be treated immediately.
Killing Army Worms will involve buying an appropriate insecticide from the local gardening store and applying it at manufacturers recommendations.
Cutworms can be a very similar problem to Army Worm, both are caterpillars of a moth, which feed on our lawns leaf, and both leave a trail of destruction that can be devastating for the homeowner or lawn lover. Following the same familiar pattern, Cutworms only feed during the night and burrow under the lawns surface and into the soil during the day. Cutworms are so named because they cut the blade of the grass, often at it’s base, during the feeding process, leaving a trail of cut grass in it’s wake, acting like mini lawn mowers.
Turf Grasses Affected
All lawn types can be affected by Cutworm.
Cutworms can be identified by having a hairless smooth black / brown color, and by the type of damage they can cause which is very unique, in cutting off stalks of grass. They are most commonly a problem in the Spring.
The moths of the cutworm can often be seen flying at night, and have a gray or blackish color.
Killing cutworms involves the application of a suitable insecticide which can be purchased at your local gardening store and applied at manufacturers recommendations.
Ants In The Lawn
Ants Invading The Home Lawn
Ants can occasionally get out of control in home lawns when they swell to huge numbers with a multitude of nests which can spread through lawns and surrounding pathways. The control of ants in home lawns is relatively straight forward although it may take a little effort over several treatments.
Small infestations are usually nothing to worry about, as ants are just another creature which is an important part of our ecosystem. In small numbers they help to create aeration in the soil underneath turf which aids in it’s overall health, and can also feed on other insects and help break downs other small garden creatures, and return these nutrients into the soil.
Recurring Damage From Ants
The damage caused when we have a severe ant infestation in lawns can aggravate and increase already struggling bare patches of turf and create unsightly ant mounds, but the damage doesn’t always end there. Ants also infest themselves into gaps in garden paths and between paving, which is one of their preferred locations as they are relatively safe and usually go on to create large networks of tunnels and nests. This infestation underneath pathways can create a major problem over time when the ants eventually displace enough sand or soil that the paving begins to collapse and become uneven in many places. So it is a wise measure to deal with ants effectively as soon as they are seen to be getting out of control.
Killing Ants In The Lawn
To begin controlling or killing large infestations of ants around our home, lawn and gardens, we must first understand why they are getting out of control in the first place and begin rectifying these contributing factors as the most important aspect in their long term control.
Ants thrive when they have an adequate supply of food and water, and a welcoming place to set up their nests.
Food and Water
So our first step to a permanent control of ants is to look for their food and water source around the garden or home, this can often be pet foods left outside, pet water bowls, a dripping tap, compost piles with food waste which isn’t breaking down properly and so on. So we need to remove these items or move them to a place where the ants are less likely to get to them. Ants may also be going inside the home to find food scraps and crumbs, so good hygiene inside the house is a must, always wiping benches and sweeping floors.
Poor Lawns and Sandy Conditions
The next thing to consider with ants is they thrive in sandy conditions, which is why they love living underneath paving so much, with it’s adequate supply of clean sand used as a base. This also means that ants love lawns which are already patchy and sandy. These bare patches in lawns are where the ants will set up home first, and then they make the bare patches worse when they begin reaching plague proportions. So a very important step in controlling ants permanently is good lawn health. A lawn in excellent health is highly unlikely to ever be a good host for ants, living between the thatch layer is totally unsuitable for them. So the better our lawns health is and the better it looks, the more uninviting it becomes to ants.
The last line of defense on the list is using insecticides. There are many ant killing treatments for sale at the local store, and the best choice is one which is designed for the ants to take back to the nest to kill other ants with, so ensure you are buying the right product. Insecticide use will also need to continued inside the house if ants come inside to feed on food scraps, a general purpose surface spray is best for this purpose.
Leafhoppers On Lawns
Leafhoppers are a small flying insect which are often never seen, any damage caused is so minimal that it is generally unnoticeable, and overall there is hardly never any need to control them.
The size of the Leafhopper is the reason why they are so rarely seen, in fact a person needs to get down on hands and knees to closely look at the grass leaf very carefully in order to diagnose they are even there, although they can sometimes be seen hopping when they are disturbed from lawn mowing.
Leafhoppers feed on the leaf blades of grass, but consume so little, and their numbers never seem to ever reach problem proportions that there never appears to be any damage whatsoever to the sod itself.
Leafhoppers are A Natural Friend
It is best to consider Leafhoppers as just another natural part of the ecosystem, and for the lawn owner they are neither friend nor foe, however they will have other interactions within the natural environment which do contribute to their overall place in our natural environments.
There can be no reason to ever control or kill Leafhoppers from thinking they are a pest problem for lawns, because they simply never are, and cause no ill effects from their presence. However, if a person is so annoyed by having a few of these friendly, almost invisible bugs in the lawn, then most general insecticides made for lawn use will work on Leafhoppers too, simply check the product label for details of which insects it will target.
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