Insects and Arachnids that Threaten Missouri Lawns

In Spring on August 1, 2013 at 8:05 pm | Written by green-admin

While proper lawn fertilization and weed control will help promote a healthy root system, it will do little to prevent certain insects or arachnids that can cause significant damage to the grass or soil from invading a lawn.  The most common pests that have been discovered on lawns in the St. Louis area include white grubs, chinch bugs, and crane flies and their larvae which are known as leatherjackets.  It is important to be able to recognize the signs of an infestation of these pests and detect them early to prevent them from causing major damage.

White Grubs

White grubs are beetle larvae that may be from many species of beetle such as European chafers, May and June beetles, Japanese beetles, Asiatic beetles, and Green June beetles among others.  They are white or cream in color and range in size from ¼ inch to 1½ inches in length.  These pests can typically be found in the soil in their C-shape position where they feed on grass roots.  White grubs do the majority of their damage in the early spring and fall season.

Because grubs feed on grass roots, they are always underground and may be at work for weeks before symptoms of their damage can be seen on the surface.  The damaged areas appear as discolored turf that can be easily peeled back from the soil.  A grub infestation can also cause an additional problem because raccoons and skunks that feed on grubs may dig up parts of a lawn to get to them.  It is important to take special notice of any beetles that may be in your yard as it could suggest a future grub problem.

Chinch Bugs

Chinch bugs are small insects that live above the soil in lawns and feed on grass blades by piercing them with their mouthparts and sucking out the juices.  These insects survive through the winter by seeking shelter under shrubs and hedges and they mate in the late spring.  An adult female chinch bug can lay up to 250 eggs in a lawn and in about 3 weeks, their nymphs hatch and begin to feed.

Chinch bugs can be found in most regions of the United States and they can attack any species of grass.  When a lawn is infested with chinch bugs, small brown patches of grass will begin to appear and will continue to grow if the problem is ignored.  It is possible for chinch bugs to destroy an entire lawn in as little as three weeks if they are not properly controlled.

Crane Flies and Leatherjackets

Crane flies are often mistaken for mosquitoes because of their similar appearance.  They are about an inch in length with long slender legs and brown bodies.  They emerge as adults in the late summer or early fall and they can lay up to several hundred eggs in a lawn.  Once the crane fly larvae, or leatherjackets as they are also known, hatch, they feed aggressively on the roots and crowns of the lawn.

Leatherjackets feed mostly on decomposing organic matter and can be found near compost piles, within the top three inches of the turf, and in adjacent plant beds as well as areas of excessive moisture or shade.  The damage from leatherjackets causes minor discoloration of the turf but if an infestation is ignored, large areas of the turf will get chewed down to the soil.

Homeowners should be on the lookout for these pests in their lawn throughout the entire lawn care season so that an infestation can be identified and stopped before any significant damage is caused.  If you are concerned about an infestation in your lawn, talk to a Green T technician about how our grub control and tree and shrub treatment can help keep your lawn free of these pests.

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