By Kate Wall
Sod-web worm, cutworm, lawn grub, army worm, – all pests that attack lawns. Numerous products are available at hardware store or garden centre for dealing with these pests, and here we look at which to use when.
The first sign of pests in your lawn is usually brown patches of dead or dying grass. To find out which pest you may have which is causing these brown patches click here. You can take steps to improve the overall health of your lawn without identifying what the pest is, but you will need to identify the pest in order to target it with an appropriate product to eradicate it.
If you have carnivorous birds such as magpies, butcher birds or kookaburras spending time pecking or digging at your lawn, they are most likely feeding on lawn grubs, the adult beetles, or one of the caterpillar (lawn worm) pests. The birds are feeding on the pests and are doing you a favour. When the birds are present and feeding, treat the pests with organic products such as eco-neem so as not to harm the birds.
Numerous products include a pesticide and a fertiliser in a combined product. Once the pest problem has been eradicated, the lawn will need some nurturing to return it to health. This will include fertilising, watering and possibly aeration and dethatching. Not all of these combination products are as effective as the label suggests and often we will do better using separate products. On closer look at the label, the dose rate to apply the product in order to be effective varies according to if you are using it as a fertiliser or insecticide, meaning that although it states it does both, it only does one effectively. This particularly applies to liquid products which can be made up at home at different concentration rates.
Scotts lawn Builder and Grub and Insect Control is a granular fertiliser which has an insecticide added. The insecticide is a low dose which is designed to prevent attacks rather than to eradicated pests once they are established. This may be effective to use in spring and again in late summer when the greatest risk of pest attack is likely. As it will affect good soil biota as well, it is not recommended to use it consistently as this will reduce soil biota and impact the quality of the soil.
Sod-web worm, cutworm and army worm are all varieties of caterpillar which feed and hide in the thatch layer of lawns. Preventing a build-up of thatch by using a low thatching turf variety, good mowing techniques or periodic de-thatching will reduce the ability of these caterpillars to take hold in your lawn. A product called “Mulch Mate” by Earthlife is ideal to use to reduce thatch build up in lawns. It is a natural enzyme which accelerates the compost process, aiding the thatch to break down faster and reducing build up.
As these pests are all caterpillars they can be treated with a product specific to caterpillars called Dipel. Dipel is usually sold in the garden rather than the lawn section, to kill caterpillars on vegetables, but will work equally well on lawns. It will not treat lawn grub and will not harm earthworms or other soil micro fauna.
Another garden care product, eco-neem will kill the caterpillar pests and will help in control of lawn grubs. It can also be detrimental to earthworms as can some of the other insecticides available for treating lawn pests. It is a good organic pest control option for lawns and gardens.
Specialised lawn insecticides can be the best way to treat pests once they appear. They can be used as preventative measures however over use will harm soil health. They are most effectively used as soon as early signs of pest damage is detected.
Richgro Lawn Grub and Beetle Killa is a popular and easy to use product which is effective on lawn grubs and also the adult beetles. It is not effective against any of the caterpillar pests, so being sure that lawn grubs are actually the problem is worthwhile before using it.
Yates Complete Lawn Insect Control is an easy to use hose on product which acts against both the caterpillar pests and lawn grubs. It is systemic, meaning the grass plants absorb the chemical and defends against future attacks. This is a highly toxic product, and as with all of these pest control products, care should be taken when using it. Always read the safety precautions when using these potentially toxic products, even the organic ones.
Small infestations of lawn pests can be treated organically by pouring a bucket of soapy water, with a little eucalyptus or tea tree oil added, over the affected area. This is quite safe for the humans, pets and wild birds that use the lawn, however it will adversely affect earthworms so is best used for small localised pest problems.
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