Lawn & Garden Advice for Northwest Florida

Dealing with lawn insect pests in north Florida

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Even though mole crickets may injure any of the lawn grasses we grow in Florida, Bermuda, bahia and centipede are most severely damaged. Mole crickets are active in North Florida spring through fall. The best window of opportunity to control them is June and July.

Soap flush is a technique to check for mole crickets. Mix 2 ounces of liquid dishwashing soap in 2 gallons of water and apply with a sprinkling can to 4 square feet of turf in several areas where mole crickets are suspected. If two to four mole crickets surface within three minutes, then a treatment is probably needed.

Chinch bugs only damage St. Augustinegrass. Chinch bugs are active spring through fall. They are usually found in open sunny areas of the yard during warmer summer weather, particularly if it’s dry.
Inspect a St. Augustine lawn weekly during spring, summer and fall. Look for areas that quickly turn yellow and then straw brown. Part grass at the margin of the yellowed areas and closely examine the soil surface for tiny insects. Immature chinch bugs are pink to bright red and are about the size of a pinhead. Adults are black with white wings and about one-fifth inch long.

Sod webworms’ favor Bermudagrass. They will attack St. Augustinegrass and centipedegrass. They usually are not in North Florida until August and continue to feed on lawns until frost.

The small green caterpillars are no larger than three-quarters inch. They mostly feed at night and are curled up on the soil surface during the day. The grass blades will be notched from their chewing and heavily infested turf may appear mowed.

Spittlebugs attack all turfgrass species but centipedegrass is their favorite. The first generation of adult spittlebugs is abundant in June and the peak population is usually 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 a single larva. Infested turf turns yellow and eventually brown. Damage usually first appears in shady areas. As the population builds, the one-quarter inch-long adults are abundant. As you walk through or mow an infested area, numerous adult spittlebugs appear to hop when disturbed (actually, they fly for a short distance). The adults are black with two orange transverse stripes across their wings.

For lawn insect control options, contact the UF/IFAS Extension Office in your county or contact a reputable and licensed pest control company.

Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent, Okaloosa County, May 12, 2012
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