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Detecting harmful turf insects

Many insects are beneficial to the turf in that they aid in the decomposition of organic matter, improve soil structure and soil aeration and some are predators of other, morn harmful organisms. Nonetheless, many insects present problems for the homeowner.

Detecting the presence of an insect is the first step in good insect control. When you find the insect, examine it closely to identify it to species.

Symptoms possible causes

A. Disruption of soil:

1. Hills, piles or structures of loose dirt on turf: ants

  • Mounds up to 18" tall with no visible entrance(s) on mound with ants emerging in mass when disturbed: fire ant
  • Small mounds with rims around single central entrance holes and presence of small (3/16") grayish-black ants: pyramid ants
  • Many hills of course soil with central exit holes and presence of large (3/8") red-brown ant with spines on the thorax: Texas leaf cutting ant
  • Flat cleared areas up to 3' in diameter made of course soil particles with a single central exit hole and with the presence of large (3/8") reddish-brown ants with square heads and no spines: red harvester ant

2. Trails of raised, loose dirt through turf roughly 1/4" wide in an "S" shaped pattern: molecrickets

3. Small piles of dirt "pellets" (1/8") scattered through thatch earth worms

4. Earthen "chimneys" with central holes: crawfish

5. Small piles of loose dirt which are associated with exit holes green June beetle larvae

6. Round holes in soil: digger wasp nests or cicada exit holes

Direct damage to grass causing yellowing or plant death:

1. Grass blades chewed or missing: caterpillars

  • Presence of gray-brown caterpillars up to 1" long with an inverted cream-colored "Y" on the fronts of the head capsules: armyworms

  • Presence of gray-brown caterpillars up to 1" long that curl into a tight "C" position when disturbed: cutworms

  • Presence of translucent greenish caterpillars up to in. long with black raised spots on each body segment tropical: sod webworm

2. Yellow or dead grass:

  • Roots missing and presence of cream-colored "C" shaped grubs with three legs on body segments behind brown head capsule: white grubs

  • No tissue removed, with presence of pinkish-orange, white and black nymph and adult stages of bugs up to 3/16" long: chinch bugs

  • No tissue removed, but with "galls" or globular object (scales) in the root zone: Rhodegrass scale or ground pearls

  • No tissue removed, but with shortened internodes producing a typical bermudagrass (stunt) mites or rosetting and tufted growth, " or "witch broom" effect; grass may be very yellow or whitish in appearance with no insects visible to the naked eye buffalograss (stunt): mites