By Kate Wall
What are some of the most common lawn pests?
Most lawn pests and diseases will be a greater problem for a stressed lawn than they will for a healthy lawn, however even a healthy lawn can be attacked at times. Being aware of and able to diagnose a problem will allow for faster and more efficient treatment, hopefully before too much damage is done to your lawn. When the right turf variety is used, and good lawn care practices are followed but a lawn fails to thrive, it is time to see if any of the following may be the culprit.
White Curl Grub
White curl grubs are the larvae of various beetles. They burrow into the soil and feed on organic matter, which in a lawn is usually the roots and rhizomes of your grass. Dead patches developing in the lawn are often the first indication that curl grubs may be present. A severe infestation can do a lot of damage to a lawn so it is important to treat them as early as possible by applying a lawn grub and beetle control pesticide as per the instructions on the label. Drenching an area of damaged lawn with soap water and watching for 10 minutes should bring any curl grubs to the surface allowing you to identify the problem.
Army Worm, Cut Worm and Sod-Web Worm
Army Worm, Cut Worm and Sod Web Worm are different caterpillars which feed on the leaves and stems of the grass. All of these caterpillars are nocturnal and hide in the thatch layer during the day therefore can be hard to detect. Drenching a damaged area of the lawn with soapy water can bring the caterpillars to the surface.
Sod Web Worm
Sod-web worms often leave a tell-tale fine web over the soil where they have burrowed which can be seen when dew is on the grass early in the morning. Another indication is you may notice moths flying low over the lawn at night. All of these caterpillars can be easily treated with pesticides which are formulated specifically for use on caterpillars. You may need to retreat during the warmer months as re-infestations are common.
The caterpillars do not eat the roots of the grass so recovery from damage can be quick if the damage is not too severe, and the lawn is fed and watered.
Birds which seem to be digging in the lawn and making a mess of the neat turf are actually foraging for other lawn pests. Carnivorous birds such as magpies and butcher birds are after curl grubs or caterpillars. Parrots or cockatoos are after bulbs on weeds. The birds are alerting us to the presence of other problems. When treating the other problems, be careful of what poisons are being used to prevent harm to the birds who are eating those pests.
Ant nests in lawns can be unsightly and can make using the lawn difficult due to biting. Ants tend to prefer drier soils to build nests in and are more likely to favour a thin lawn with bare patches. Good lawn care will make a lawn less attractive to ants. Black ants can usually be controlled using ant power, however bull ants or green ants may be more difficult to deal with. Pouring boiling water down the nest may prove effective; otherwise a licenced pest controller will be needed.
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