Hunting Billbugs in Turf

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Hunting billbug adults measure 0.3-0.4 inches in length and are black, charcoal gray, or brownish in color (Figure 1). The distinguishing characteristic for this species is a smooth, non-punctated Y-shaped area behind the head and parenthesis-like curved markings on the sides of the pronotum (Figure 2). They usually overwinter as adults or as partially mature larvae in the thatch, soil crevices, under mulch or leaf litter. The adults emerge from their overwintering sites as temperatures increase in the spring and will feed and mate. They are active at night and will feign death when disturbed. Damage by adults is most prominent in spring, but can also be seen in the fall (Figure 3). The adults will lay oblong, creamy white eggs from May into September. The eggs take 3-10 days to hatch. The larvae that hatch are white, legless and have a brown head capsule; they feed on the turfgrass stems and as they mature the crown, roots, and stolons. Larvae are most common from May to October. At full maturity, 3-5 weeks after egg hatch, the larvae measure 0.2-0.4 inches in length. They will then pupate in the soil and 3-7 days later the adult hunting billbug emerges.

Hunting billbug viewed from the side
Hunting billbug adult in the palm of a hand
Patches of dry yellow dead grass between areas of green grass

Chemical Control

To control adult populations apply insecticides in spring when adults emerge from their overwintering sites, but before they lay their eggs. Treat no later than 3 weeks after adults become active. The use of insecticides for adult control includes bifenthrin (Talstar, Menace, etc), deltamethrin (Deltagard), lambda-cyhalothrin (Scimitar or Battle), or imidacloprid (Merit). The use of insecticides for larval control includes clothianidin (Arena) or thiamethoxam (Meridian). The use of insecticides for both adults and larval control include chlorantraniliprole (Acelepryn), clothianidin + bifenthrin (Aloft), or imidacloprid + bifenthrin (Allectus, Atera). Check the label for rates and application methods. Applications in the spring are preventative and should only be made on sites with a history of hunting billbugs. To control larval populations apply insecticides 6 weeks after the adults become active. At this point the larvae are in the root zone and are the most vulnerable. Be sure to water the insecticide in after application to insure insecticide movement through the thatch.

Table 1. Insecticides for control of hunting billbugs in turf.
Insecticide and Formulation Amount per 1,000 sq ft Precaution and Remarks
bifenthrin* (Menace, Talstar, others) F, GC; G form also available 0.25 to 0.5 fl oz Use GC formulation for golf courses.
chlorantraniliprole (Acelepryn) 0.184 to 0.46 fl oz
chlorpyrifos* (Dursban) 50 WSP, Pro See label For use on golf courses; check new label.
clothianidin (Arena) .5G 50 WDG 14 to 22 oz 0.15 to 0.22 oz
chlothianidin + bifenthrin (Aloft) GC SC LC SC GC G LC G See label 0.27 to 0.44 fl oz 0.27 to 0.54 fl oz 1.8 to 3.6 lb 1.8 to 3.6 lb
deltamethrin (Deltagard) G 2 to 3 lb/1,000 ft
imidacloprid* (Merit) 75 WSP 3 to 4 level tsp Make application prior to egg hatch.
imidacloprid + bifenthrin (Allectus, Atera) See label Rate varies with pest. Different formulations for different sites.
lambda-cyhalothrin* (Battle, Scimitar, Cyonara) See label Observe restrictions near water.
propoxur (Baygon) 1.5 fl oz 1 pt Treat area thoroughly. Use at least 15 gallons water per 1,000 sq ft. Do not allow spray mixture to stand overnight. Mow grass before treatment.
thiamethoxam (Meridian) 0.33 G 25 WG 60 to 80 lb/acre 12.7 to 17 oz/acre Optimum control when applied from peak flight of adults to peak of egg hatch. Also suppresses mole crickets and chinch bugs.
Dinotefuran (Zylam) 20SG 1 oz per 1000 ft2


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