Mole crickets, chinch bugs and spittlebugs are common lawn insect pests to begin watching for this time of year.
Mole crickets can be active in lawns spring through fall, but the best window of opportunity to control them is in June and July.
Soap flushing is a technique to survey for mole crickets. Mix two ounces of liquid dishwashing soap in two gallons of water and apply with a sprinkling can to four square feet of turf in several areas where mole crickets are suspected. If an average of two to four mole crickets appear on the surface within several minutes, then a treatment is probably needed.
Chinch bugs only damage St. Augustinegrass. So if your lawngrass is something other than St. Augustine, don’t worry about this insect.
Damage from chinch bugs tends to begin in April. However, they are more likely to be active during warmer summer months through early fall in the more sunny areas of the yard, particularly if it’s dry.
Inspect a St. Augustinegrass lawn weekly during spring, summer and fall. Look for areas that quickly turn yellow and then straw brown. Part the grass at the margin of the yellowed areas and closely examine the soil surface and base of the turf for tiny insects. Immature chinch bugs are pink to red and are about the size of a pinhead. The adults are only 1/8 inch long and black with white wings.
Spittlebugs attack all turfgrass species but centipedegrass is their favorite. The first generation of adult spittlebugs is abundant in June and the peak population usually occurs in August to early September.
An early sign of spittlebug activity are masses of white, frothy spittle found in the turf. Each piece of spittle contains one immature spittle bug. Infested turf turns yellow and eventually brown. Damage resembles chinch bug injury but usually first appears in shady areas. Closer inspection reveals discolored individual grass blades with cream colored and pinkish-purple streaks running the length of individual blades. As the population builds, the ¼ inch long adults are abundant. As you walk through or mow an infested area, numerous adult spittlebugs fly short distances when disturbed. Adults are black with two orange transverse stripes across their wings.
Correct lawn management can minimize many pest problems. If a pesticide becomes necessary to control a lawn pest, be sure to follow the product’s label instructions and precautions.