Ground Pearls in Turf
Ground pearls belong to a family of scale insects. Ground pearls are identified by the presence of small pearl-like bodies on the roots or in the soil. The pink adult stage that crawls is present during early summer. The adult female ground pearl is a wingless, pinkish scale insect, about 1⁄16 inch long with well-developed forelegs and claws. The male is a gnat-like insect smaller than the female, but with a slender waxy "tail" up to 1⁄4 inch long. Clusters of pinkish-white eggs are laid in a white waxy sac. Commonly referred to as a ground pearl, the slender nymph is covered with a hard, globular, yellowish-purple shell. Encysted nymphs are up to 1⁄16 inch in diameter.
When establishing new turf with sod or sprigs, check the roots to avoid planting infested grass. Watering, liming and fertilizing as prescribed by a soil test, proper mowing height with a sharp blade and other good cultural practices may help lawns recover from ground pearl injury, but such recovery may be temporary. Other warm season types of turf, such as bermudagrass, carpetgrass (Axonopus spp.) or bahiagrass, appear to be less sensitive to ground pearls and should be considered for lawns with severe ground pearl problems.
No insecticide is specifically labelled for ground pearl control. While university testing proceeds, maintaining a healthy, vigorous lawn in hopes of minimizing damage is the recommendation.
This Extension factsheet can also be viewed at: