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NC State Extension

Insects and Other Pests

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Generally, the goal of insect and mite management is the one of IPM, that is, keep damage to an acceptable aesthetic level while using monitoring and appropriate control tactics.

Proper detection and identification of insects and mites in turf is the key to using proper controls. Remember that the mere presence of a bug in turf is not a valid reason for taking steps for control. Therefore, you will need a thorough knowledge of the techniques and methods of detecting insect and mite populations and determining whether enough numbers are present to warrant using one of the control tactics. The following techniques are presented as examples of ways in which you may be able to access insect and mite pests. You will have to learn through experience which techniques work best for your particular situations.

The old-fashioned technique of looking closely at the turf is probably still the most valuable. Use spot inspection of damaged areas or spots which just don’t look right. Proper inspections requires getting down on your hands and knees rather than “curb side” or “truck cab” diagnosis. spread the turf and look at the base of the stems for insects or discoloration. Grab hold of the turf and pull up. If the turf breaks off easily, look for the sawdust of billbugs. If the turf lifts up, cut through and look through the soil for white grubs. If a pest is detected, you will need to know the extent of the problem. The transect method is merely walking in a line across the affected turf counting the number of damage areas observed. Square foot samples are often useful if billbugs or white grubs are suspected. Simply cut back a square foot flap of turf and count the number of grubs visible in the soil. One to five grubs per square foot will not usually result in visible damage to turf, but 10-15 grubs per square foot will definitely need attention.

Many of the turf insects and mites seem to defy easy detection by simply looking. In other areas, cutting square foot samples will do more damage than good. Therefore, a disclosing solution of pyrethrum or soap will do. A tablespoon or two of household dishwashing detergent in a gallon of water sprinkled over several square feet of turf will cause any cutworms or sod webworms to come to the surface. Occasionally, billbug adults and other insects are also flushed out.

Scientists studying chinch bugs often use the technique of flotation. Flotation is merely inserting a large metal cylinder, a one gallon can with the top and bottom cut off is satisfactory, into the turf to the soil level filling it up with water. Chinch bugs and other turf inhabiting insects and mites float to the surface for each counting. Taking flotation counts on home lawns probably would take more time than necessary to determine if an infestation is present.

Some of the turf infesting insects are attracted to lights or chemical attractants (pheromones) and can be easily monitored. Most of the cutworms, sod webworms and many of the night flying white grub adults can be collected in a light trap. Pheromone traps have been developed for the Japanese beetle adult and some of the fall armyworms, cutworms and sod webworms. Other insects such as billbugs can be monitored by using simple pitfall traps placed along the side of turf areas.

Each of the following insect factsheets include detailed species data, cultural and chemical control recommendations for turf and pictures to aid in identification.

Page Last Updated: 6 years ago
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