- Special Sections
- Public Notices
In the past two months, I have had more calls and walk-ins with questions about turf. One thing is for sure; turf can be a challenge here at the coast with the sandy soils and warm season grasses. As I child I remember my brother and I rolling down the hill in our front yard. The grass was always so green and thick. We lived in Raleigh and had fescue. Here, it is a totally different ballgame.
Warm season grasses grow best in summer when the temperatures are between 80-95 degrees and go dormant at the first sign of frost in the fall. When the temperatures rise, so do the number of insects present in the environment. Potential insect damage on turf varies greatly due to many factors such as fertility, irrigation, height of cut, age of grass, climate, food availability, plant response, natural enemies and use of the area.
Fortunately, only a few pests cause problems that require a control measure in any one year. Some insects need to be controlled at the first sign of presence because they will likely increase in numbers and cause considerable damage. With other pests, pest buildup can be detected by frequent examination of turf and insecticides used only if the injury gets progressively worse.
In the month of May, some of the active pests to be looking out for are chinch bugs, cutworms, and moles crickets. The southern chinch bug is a serious pest of St. Augustinegrass and can attack centipede. Adult chinch bugs are about 1/6-inch long and black with white markings. Young nymphs are about half that in size and are bright red with a white band across the back.
Most of the damage is done by the nymphs. Yellowish spots appear on your lawn and then rapidly turn brown and die. Damage occurs in scattered patches. To determine if chinch bugs are a problem in your St. Augustinegrass, remove both ends of an empty can and push one end 2 to 3 inches into the turf. Fill the can with water and wait a few minutes. If chinch bugs are present, they will float to the surface.
Cutworms are the larvae stage of several species of night flying moths. They look like a fat, smooth, dull-colored caterpillar from 1-1/2 to 2 inches long. Adults and larvae hide during the day but may be active on a cloudy day. To detect cutworms, closely examine turf for damage and worms late in the afternoon.
Mix one tablespoon of 1 or 2 percent pyrethrum in a gallon of water and apply to one square yard of turf. You can use soap if pyrethrum is unavailable. The mixture will irritate the insect and force them to crawl to the surface.
Mole crickets are light brown crickets about 1-1/2 inches long with short, stout forelegs and shovel-like feet. They feed at night on grass roots burrowing and uprooting seedlings and drying out the soil. Mole crickets are best monitored by using a soapy water to flush them. Use two teaspoons of liquid dishwasher detergent in two gallons of water and pour it over a square yard area.