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LAWN PESTS

There are a whole host of pests which can cause problems in your lawn. Some are commonplace and whilst a nuisance do not represent a threat to lawn health. There are others however which if left untreated can cause serious damage to turf.

Leatherjackets

The larvae of Crane Fly (tipulidae), often known as ‘daddy long legs’, are leatherjackets (tipula paludosa) which feed on the roots of grass plants. The leatherjackets are grey brown, up to 1” (25mm) long, tubular shaped and wrinkled in appearance. Leather Jacket

Leatherjackets can cause significant damage to turf. The adult Crane Flies are active in late summer to early autumn with each female laying approximately 200-300 eggs in the turf. These hatch into larvae within about 14 days and remain in the soil for about 9 months before pupating and hatching into the next seasons Crane Flies. Whilst developing the larvae feed on the grass plant roots at or just below ground level resulting in the turf dying back, often in large areas.

Solution: Best treated during the early stages of larvae development ie September – November with a follow up treatment in March. The treatment is an insecticide that leaches into the soil and kills the feeding larvae.

 

Chafer Grubs

Adult Chafer Beetles are medium sized reddish brown beetles about 15mm long. It is the grub stage that is found in the turf and causes significant damage. The grub is white with a large brown head and pincers with three distinctive pairs of legs near the head.Chafer Grubs

In heavily infested gardens the adult beetles fly up from the turf in large numbers at dusk from late May to June. Eggs are laid in the turf and these hatch a few weeks later. The grubs feed on the grass plant roots but do not start to cause significant damage until early autumn by which time the grubs are nearly fully grown. They overwinter as larvae and pupate in the turf in the early spring. Damage is most evident in late summer and early autumn. Early symptoms include gradual thinning and yellowing of the grass followed by the appearance of irregular shaped dead patches. Ultimately the dead turf can be lifted up and peeled back as the roots become severed and the grass dies off. As well as the damage caused by the grubs significant damage is also caused by predators such as foxes and birds tearing up the turf to get at the grubs themselves.

Solution: Best treated during the early stages of larvae development in late spring and early summer. The treatment should be effective for one year.

 

Ants

Ants in lawns are more of a nuisance than being destructive pests, especially red ants which will bite if disturbed. Ants will disfigure the surface with mounds of earth they excavate when building their nests under the turf. Initial signs of activity generally show in late spring as dry, very fine mounds. Left unchecked ant nests will turn what was an even, attractive lawn into one that is bumpy and patchy as it becomes susceptible to scalping when mowing. Ants

Ant nests contain one or more fertile female ants known as Queens which lay eggs in brood chambers within the nest. Most of the other ants are smaller, sterile females which are known as worker ants. Their role is to maintain, guard and enlargen the nest, feed the developing larvae and gather food for the colony. The white maggot like larvae are fed on a liquid diet secreted by the worker ants which then allows the larvae to develop into pupae. At certain times of the year the ant nests will produce winged ants which are young queens and male ants which often emerge en masse during humid weather in the late summer. These will then mate after which the males die leaving the young queens to find a site where they can establish a new colony.

Solution: There is not an effective insecticide that can be applied in the same way as for leatherjackets or chafer grubs. When activity is first noticed the best solution is often simply to soak the area with large volumes of water in order to deter the ants from establishing a nest there.

Once a nest is established little can be done other than to kill the colony in the nest. This is best done by lifting a neat, square of turf directly above where the nest is, removing several spades of earth to uncover the nest chamber itself and applying a very liberal dose of ant powder directly into the nest. Immediately replace the soil and turf and tamp back into place. It may be that, if a mound has developed above the nest slightly less soil is put back in to create a more level surface for ease of mowing. Be careful to wear a face mask or similar protection to avoid inhalation of ant powder and to avoid getting any in your eyes.

Worms

Worm casts are found on the surface of lawns and are particularly noticeable on very fine turf. Once smeared by feet or by the mower the turf becomes muddy and slippery – not only is this unattractive but it can cause weeds or moss to develop.Worms

Worm casts are produced mainly during late spring and early autumn, and occasionally in spells of mild weather in the winter, when the soil is warm and moist as the worms remain closer to the surface during these conditions. Of the 25 different varieties of worms only 3 types are responsible for casting as they deposit muddy excrement on the lawn surface after feeding on decaying vegetation. Earthworms do however have many benefits in lawns as their burrowing helps to aerate and drain the soil and they also incorporate organic matter into the soil by pulling dead leaves into their burrows.

Solution: Disperse worm casts using a besom or similar when they are dry – at this stage they will disperse and break up quite easily. If they become a serious problem there are treatments available that can be applied in spring and autumn to suppress casting and keep the lawns clear of casts.

Moles

Moles are responsible for the heaps of soil neatly piled up, often in groupings, across the borders and the lawn. Moles are rarely seen as they live underground and as such are almost blind, relying upon their senses of smell and sight. They excavate a system of tunnels and chambers and dispose of the resulting soil by throwing up molehills. Other than in the breeding season in spring they largely lead solitary lives so even a large number of molehills on a lawn may often be the work of a single mole.Mole Hill

Moles feed on earthworms and other soil dwelling invertebrates, not on grass roots. The damage they cause is therefore due to their lifestyle rather than anything else. Any molehills should be removed by taking away the spoil and spreading onto nearby borders or beds rather than being spread over the lawn. Also try and fill in the network of tunnels to maintain a level and attractive lawn.

Solution: Removing moles is not always as easy as it might at first seem. There are all sorts of methods used by the professionals but traps are often the most effective, either ones that kill the mole or those that will allow the mole to be removed and released elsewhere.