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Pests often tear up lawns during fall when digging for food source

Posted: Sunday, September 16, 2007

Last week, I received numerous calls about animals digging and tearing out huge patches of grass in yards. The digging occurred at night, and no one saw the animals.


What is doing all of the digging, and why? A number of animals - raccoons, skunks, opossums and armadillos - will dig or tear the grass up. They are doing this because there is a food source underground. This food is usually grubs or mole crickets. Crows also will tear up a yard to get at grubs.

There are several ways to try to get rid of the animals. Trapping works well on raccoons, skunks and opossums. All you have to do is put some bait, such as sardines, into a trap.

Trapping doesn't work as well with armadillos. There is no bait that will lure them into a trap. One suggestion is to use two-by-fours and put them in a V-shape with the point at the opening of the trap. If the armadillo hits one of the boards, it will funnel down to the trap. Armadillos are strong, so the trap that you use has to be strong.

Because trapping is a short-term solution, you need another plan. One solution is to get rid of the food source. White grubs and mole crickets need to be controlled while they are small, usually from July through early October, and this depends on the insect.

Four main species of white grubs are in our area. These are May-June beetles, masked chafers, green June beetles and Japanese beetles. Knowing which beetle you have is important to know when treating for them. Usually, animals don't dig in your yard until there is a large population of beetles, so treatment is necessary.

With Japanese beetles and May-June beetles, you need to average three to four per square foot before you see damage and treatment is needed. With masked chafers, you need five to six per square foot, and with green June beetles you need eight to 10 per square foot before you treat.

How do you determine which beetle you are dealing with? When you look at a white grub, it will form a C-shape. You need to look at the tail end of the grub to determine the species. A group of hairs on the end of the tail form a pattern or no pattern. This is called the raster pattern. Japanese beetles' raster pattern is V-shape, and that for May-June beetles has four rows of hairs. This is important to know because you can use an organic control called milky spore to control Japanese beetles. The fungus in this product doesn't work on other beetles.

A number of products work on white grubs. Imidacloprid and trichlorfon are made by Bayer Advanced. Another product is halofenozide (Grub B Gon). Ortho and Spectricide have products that have white grubs on the label. In order to get the best control, follow the directions on the label.

Now is the time to treat for white grubs. In the spring, they are too large to control effectively, so control them now while they are smaller.

Mole crickets can be controlled now, too. If you have mole crickets, the grass will start thinning out. They damage the turf by tunneling, and one species eats the grass roots. There is one generation of mole crickets per year. The best time to treat for them is in July, but if you have them, now is a good time, also.

Before treating for mole crickets, make sure you have them. Mix two tablespoons of liquid dishwashing detergent in three to five gallons of water. You do not want to make suds, so put the detergent in after the water. Pour this mixture over a 4-foot-by 4-foot area. If mole crickets are in the lawn, they will emerge. To control mole crickets, use bifenthrin, imidacloprid, or fipronil (Top Choice). Again, follow the directions on the label.

Columbia County Extension Agent Charles Phillips can be reached at (706) 868-3413 or by e-mail at The Extension's Web address is


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