It seems like all I am writing about lately is problems with insects. Last week, I wrote about Japanese beetles and how to control them. This week, there are numerous insects causing problems.
As the weather gets warmer, the insects become more active and the time that it takes for eggs to hatch shortens. Added to the increase in temperature, the dry conditions are favoring some insects. Two insects are becoming more of a problem: chinch bugs and mole crickets.
Chinch bugs mainly are a pest on St. Augustine grass. They are small, about an eighth of an inch long, black, with whitish wings on their back. The larva stage of the insect is reddish-orange.
You can find them by using a flotation device, a gallon can with both ends cut out and inserted into the ground deeply enough that it will hold water. Fill the can with water and wait. It will take about five minutes for the chinch bugs to float to the top. Another way is to part the grass and look for the bugs as they move about. If your eyes are as bad as mine, this can be a challenge.
Chinch bugs damage the grass by sucking the juice out of the stems and runners. St. Augustine that is infected with chinch bugs will turn yellow and then brown. In years past, we could count on July and August being the months that we had to worry about chinch bugs, but last year they started in May and lasted until November. This year they have been active for a few weeks.
Chinch bugs like hot, dry conditions, so the first place they will show up is next to hard surfaces such as roads, driveways and sidewalks.
The best control options for homeowners are insecticides that contain cyfluthrin or bifenthrin. Cyfluthrin can be found in Bayer Advanced products such as Bayer Advanced Complete Insect Killer or Carpenter Ant and Termite Killer. Bifenthrin is in Ortho Max Bug-B-Gon.
The other insect that we need to be on the lookout for is mole crickets. Mole crickets were introduced into this country around 1918 from South America. There are two main species that affect turfgrass: the Southern Mole Cricket and the Tawny Mole Cricket.
The Northern Mole Cricket is a native mole cricket, and it doesn't cause problems to turfgrass.
Mole crickets damage turf by tunneling through the sod, and the Southern Mole Cricket eats the roots of turfgrass. The Tawny Mole Cricket eats other insects but does a great deal of damage by tunneling. Mole crickets have one generation per year. The adults emerge in April and take their mating flights. Once mating occurs the female lays her eggs in the turf. Then both the male and female die. The eggs will hatch in June and early July in our area. The young mole crickets will become adults by September.
To effectively treat for mole crickets, knowing their life cycle is very important; the smaller the mole cricket, the easier it is to control them.
Use a soap flush to determine if you have mole crickets. Mix one to two tablespoons of dishwashing liquid in three to five gallons of water and pour out over an area, three feet by three feet. If there are mole crickets, they will come out of the ground. The soap will irritate the insect.
There are two options for control. The first is to treat with a fast-acting product. To get the best results, you need to treat in mid-June and again in mid-July. Also, treat as late in the day as possible.
Mole crickets move around on top of the grass at night. If you apply the pesticide as late as possible before dark, the insecticide is at full strength when they appear.
You can use bifenthrin (Ortho Max Bug-B-Gon). The other option is to treat with a longer lasting insecticide such as imidacloprid or fipronil. The imidacloprid (Bayer Advance Lawn Product) will give control for up to three months. Fipronil (Chipco Choice or Top Choice) will give season-long control. You can find fipronil where commercial lawn care professionals purchase pesticides, or you can hire them to apply it. You can apply either of these products in early June and still get control with one application.
Columbia County Extension Agent Charles Phillips can be reached at (706) 868-3413 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Extension Web address is www.ugaextension.com/columbia.
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