Examine your lawn weekly or just before each mowing to detect problem areas. At the same time, look for weeds. A dense stand of healthy grass prevents most weeds from growing, so abundant weed growth indicates that the lawn is unhealthy and susceptible to other pests. |
An indication that a lawn may be infested with insects is when the adults (e.g., moth or beetle stage) of pests are drawn to lights at night or when vertebrate predators (birds, raccoons, or skunks) are digging in your lawn for caterpillars and grubs. However, the insects coming to light may be drawn from far away and vertebrate activity is not a foolproof indicator. They may be feeding on earthworms instead of insects; also, vertebrates will return to where they previously found food, so they may dig in lawns even if insect pests are no longer abundant. If you observe damage, the next step is to determine the actual cause. If you think the damage is caused by insects, confirm your suspicions by looking for the pest. The most accurate way to do this is by using either the drench test or by inspecting around roots
The drench test is effective for detecting chinch bugs and caterpillars including armyworms, cutworms, and sod webworms, but it does not detect grubs. Locating and correctly identifying a pest is important because different pests require different treatment materials, timing, and application methods.
Remember that the mere presence of an insect pest does not imply that it is the cause of unhealthy lawns or that an insecticide treatment is needed. It is normal to find a few pest insects in any healthy lawn. Generally treatments are not recommended unless the population level of the insect pest reaches a predetermined level called a threshold
Thresholds are the population levels at which the number of insects feeding exceeds the ability of a healthy lawn to withstand the damage they cause. For example, an insecticide usually is not needed unless there are more than about 5 armyworms and cutworms or 15 lawn moth larvae per square yard. Sample several different areas of the lawn to better estimate populations overall, especially if numbers are close to suggested thresholds (Adapted from University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources)
Inspect Around Roots
The drench test does not indicate the presence of billbug larvae, black turfgrass ataenius larvae, or white grubs (masked chafers, May beetles, and June beetles). To detect white grubs, dig or cut beneath thatch and examine the soil around roots and crowns (where roots and stems meet). Look for the white, legless larvae of billbugs (a weevil) or the C-shaped, six-legged larvae of scarab beetles such as black turfgrass ataenius and masked chafers. When these are numerous, roots are eaten away and turf often can be rolled back like a carpet. If you find more than about one billbug larva, six white grubs, or 40 black turfgrass ataenius grubs per square foot, control may be needed.
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