Weak, stressed lawns are more susceptible to the intrusion of pests and diseases than a healthy lawn. You can reduce your chances of insect infestation by mowing frequently and at least 3” to encourage a deep root system, by using fertilizers sparingly, and by watering appropriately.
Florida’s climate causes a year-round bug season. It is pertinent to monitor your lawn weekly throughout the summer for signs of insects. If your lawn is showing signs of damage from pests, it is important to identify which pest is causing the issues before taking the necessary steps toward treatment. Listed below are common Florida lawn pests:
Chinch Bugs - Chinch bugs are small (approx. 1/5” long) insects with silver wings and black bodies are amongst the most common and damaging pests. Extensive damage can occur from this insect’s ability to ingest water and nutrients from grass plants and inject them with poison. The resulting yellow/brown patches usually occur near sidewalks and driveways, but occasionally appear in the middle of a sunny lawn. St. Augustine grass is especially susceptible to chinch bugs. Harm to your lawn normally occurs when they are about 20 to 25 chinch bugs per square foot. Flotation is a method that can be used to detect the presence of these pesky bugs. This method is performed by removing the top and bottom lids of a coffee can and inserting the can into the lawn. Once the can is inserted, fill the can with water and check for chinch bugs as they float to the surface. A chinch bugs infestation can be controlled by the application of appropriate pesticides or through non-chemical methods such as the soap flake remedy or applying a mixture of fish oil and sesame oil.
(image source: http://bugguide.net)
Whiteflies - A very small (1/16” long) waxy, white insect that resembles a tiny moth. There are more than 75 species of whiteflies in Florida. These pests can cause excessive damage to host plants by feeding on plant juices at all stages of growth including adult and nymph stages. Due to the massive numbers in which the whiteflies congregate, they can effectively drain the plant of water and vital nutrients. Over 500 plants species are affected by the whitefly including fruits such as mangos and guavas, palms such as the sabal palm and coconut palm, and other plants including bougainvilleas, poinsettias, birds of paradise, etc. Noticeable signs of whitefly infestation include a build-up of a white, waxy substance on the bottom of leaves and “honeydew”. “Honeydew” is a sugary excretion which can cause of the growth of a black fungus that grows on the insect’s excrement. This honeydew can stick to vehicles, sidewalks, homes, outdoor furniture, etc. This substance also attracts ants that deter the natural predators of whiteflies such as lacewings and bigeyed bugs. If whitefly eggs or larvae are found in your lawn or garden, consult a pest professional to apply an insecticide, as these pests will not vacate on their own.
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Fire Ants - Fire ants are small, aggressive ants that live throughout the state of Florida. Fire ants can harm wildlife, pets, family, and their mounds can damage mowing and electrical equipment. Their dome-shaped nests can be found in open fields and lawns near structural and landscape areas because these ants prefer to construct their mounds in loose earth. Fire ants are most active during the cooler part of the day where they defend their home by stinging intruders. Large colonies can send additional queen ants to begin new mounds nearby, so be sure to keep an eye out for ant trails. To control these pests, perform direct treatment of pesticides to the mounds or consult a pest control professional.
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Grubs - White grubs are the beetle larvae and rest in a arch-shaped position. Grubs damage turf grass by feeding on the roots. Injured grasses will have uneven grooves chewed along the sides of the blades. The initial signs of infestation will resemble drought damage. Grubs can kill small plants and gnaw holes in root vegetables. Large infestations of grubs can attract other pests like raccoons, opossums, crows, ibis, and other birds, which make holes in the lawn and garden in search of the grubs. Professional lawn spraying to eliminate the larvae and eggs to prevent further damage is the best solution. If they are found in the top 4-6” of the soil, check the area periodically to see if the infestation is still occurring.
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Sod Webworms - Sod webworms are the larval stage of the moth and primarily attack Bermuda grass, bluegrass, and fescue grass. Sod webworms live in the thatch layer, spinning a light webbing and feeds on the undersides of grass blades. These pests usually feed at night and can cause extensive damage in a short amount of time, causing brown patches in your lawn. To determine whether or not it is sod webworms harming your lawn, you can dig into the thatch and search for their silk-lined tunnels. Sod Webworms can easily be confused with other pests, so be sure to consult a pest control professional to control them.
(image source: http://www.bugs.com/)
Southern Mole Cricket - Southern mole crickets are a nocturnal insect that loves Bermuda and Bahia grass, but can damage any type of grass, usually in July-September. These insects burrow near the roots of the grass, which breaks up the soil around the roots and pushes the roots up, drying out and subsequently killing your lawn. The lawn damage from the Southern Mole Crickets is due to tunneling rather than feeding as these insects are largely carnivorous. Mole crickets spend most of their lives underground, which means that sometimes the only signs of their infestation is the drying out of the grass.
(image source: http://bugguide.net)
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