Mole crickets are the pest for July, not so much in the fact that July is the month to control them, but rather due to the fact that before July is over their presence becomes obvious. The two most troublesome species of mole cricket, the tawny and the southern mole cricket, are introduced species from South America. They are most common along the coastal plain of North Carolina and are most serious in the southern coastal areas. However, they do extend to the north and west to areas such as Sanford. A third species that is native to this area, the northern mole cricket, occasionally cause some damage to golf course putting greens throughout the state.
The basic life cycle of the mole cricket is important to understand if one is to effectively control this pest. This insect has one generation per year. The adults mate and lay eggs in the spring. The eggs usually begin hatching around June 1 and continue for the next month and a half. Medium-sized nymphs or immature crickets can be found in July and once the crickets get this size obvious damage can occur. In August and September as the crickets continue to grow, they are capable of seriously damaging turfgrass. Once they are this large they are also very difficult to control. The mole crickets overwinter either as large nymphs or adults. Then the following spring, they mate and lay eggs and then the adults die in the summer.
The key to effective control is to treat when the crickets are small. This usually means in late June or early July. However, this year, the warmer spring moved development ahead a week or two. Once the crickets get large in August and September, they are hardier and more difficult to control, have already caused serious damage, and are capable of avoiding many insecticide treatments by moving deeper into the soil. Therefore, good record keeping of where infestations occur and the monitoring of egg hatch is critical. Egg hatch can be monitored using a soapy water solution as a drench. This consists of a 2% solution of water and lemon-scented liquid dishwashing detergent. About a gallon is poured slowly over an area of one square yard. Any crickets in the soil will surface in a few minutes. This technique also works well for cutworms and armyworms.
Once newly-hatched crickets are found, treatments should begin within a couple of weeks. It is critical not to get behind in this scheduling. Sometimes it is easy to ignore the crickets when they are small as it is mid summer, the bermudagrass looks good and there is no obvious damage. However, in September when the day length is shorter and the crickets are large, the bermudagrass will take a serious hit. Remember that good records of where the crickets occur will help you target your soap flushes and save you time. Specific control recommendations can be found in several NCSU publications and in a link found on Turffiles.