Controlling lawn pests Grubs bugs and other subsurface lurkers
Sometimes good conditions aren't enough to stop a problem; and other times it isn't possible to optimize conditions for one reason or another. That's when you step in with some natural controls, which are available from nurseries and insectaries. The following are tips on dealing with some of the most common lawn insect pests (see Figure 22-3):
- Grubs, armyworms, and cutworms: These soil-dwelling larvae cause patches of lawn to die off and also attract varmints that dig up the lawn looking for them. Grubs are susceptible to many natural controls, so you may not need to take any action. You can inoculate the soil with beneficial nematodes (roundworms); introduce parasitic wasps; or treat with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a disease of caterpillars that's harmless to anything else. Japanese beetle grubs are treatable with milky spore disease; one fall application lasts for decades.
- Sod webworm: These larvae make small patches of dead grass in summer. You'll see moths flying around the lawn and can find green pellets of frass (a nice word for poop) in the grass. Keep grass mowed high, aerated, and well watered to minimize the problem. If those techniques fail, control with Bt or parasitic nematodes. Some varieties of rye and fescue lawn grasses contain endophytes (beneficial fungi that attack webworms and other pests).
- Chinch bugs: These winged insects are easily controlled by regular watering, which encourages the development of fungi that attack the bugs. Keep thatch removed, too. As with webworms, grass varieties containing endophytes also help.
- Billbugs: These tiny beetles can be controlled with endophytic grasses or parasitic nematodes.
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