Damage. This is an underground pest which is a natural inhabitant of grassland and causes most problems on golf greens. After ploughing up of grassland, leatherjackets may also cause damage to the crops such as potatoes, cabbages, lettuce and strawberries. This pest is particularly damaging in prolonged wet periods when the roots of young or succulent crops may be killed off. Occasionally lower leaves may be eaten.
Life cycle. The adult of this species is the crane fly, or 'daddy-longlegs', commonly seen in late August. The females lay up to 300 small eggs on the surface of the soil at this period, and the emerging larvae feed on plant roots during the autumn, winter and spring months, reaching a length of 4 cm by June. They are cylindrical, grey-brown in colour, legless and possess hooks in their mouths for feeding. During the summer months, they survive as a thick-walled pupa.
Control. Amateur gardeners remove this pest as they dig in autumn and spring. Crops sown in autumn are rarely affected, as the larvae are very small at this time. There are no pesticide products recommended to control this pest.
Professional growers and groundsmen use products containing the residual chlorpyrifos, which is drenched into soil to reduce the larval numbers.
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