Protecting Your Turf
Does your lawn feature unsightly tunnels, soil mounds, and/or inexplicable dead spots? If so, you may have a mole cricket problem on your hands.
Mole cricket infestations have been increasing year after year in the southeastern United States. These destructive pests are closely related to grasshoppers, yet live burrowed in the soil where they tunnel and feed on small insects and plant roots. While Bahiagrass and Bermudagrass lawns are typically more susceptible to infestation, Centipede, St. Augustine and Zoysiagrass lawns can also fall victim to mole cricket damage.
Mole Cricket Life Cycle
Mole crickets spend the winter as adults deep under the soil in tunnels. When the soil temperatures start to warm up in the spring and night time temperatures remain above 60 degrees Fahrenheit, mole crickets will start actively feeding on turfgrass roots. Mating also begins in early spring, as males build special chambers to attract females by producing a long call or song. After mating, the females will lay their eggs in chambers that are 6-18 inches deep (depending on soil type). Females can lay 35-40 eggs per clutch, often producing hundreds of offspring in one year. Once the mating process is complete, the adults will usually die. When the eggs hatch, the nymphs – which lack wings and are darker in color than their adult counterparts – start feeding (usually in May or June).
Both females and males can fly and can be found fluttering around outdoor lights after dark.
Identifying Mole Cricket Damage
Mole cricket damage can appear in various forms:
- Raised burrows and mounds. Mole crickets tunnel through the soil, which breaks up the structure of the grass’s roots. As a result, affected turfgrass often dies due to desiccation. The tunneling itself creates unsightly damage, which is often further accentuated by the mounds pushed up during the winter months.
- Dying grass. Severe damage occurs during the summer months as the nymphs feed on turfgrass roots, turning the lawn straw-colored (similar in appearance to drought stress). Heavy infestations at this time result in large dead patches and exposed soil.
Proper cultural care, including a strict regimen of healthy watering and mowing practices, professionally applied fertilizer, and aeration will help keep your lawn thriving. A thick, lush lawn is far better at combating insect infestation and damage.
If you suspect a mole cricket infestation may be at play on your turf, contact us for a complimentary lawn inspection. One of our knowledgeable, trained lawn care technicians will partner with you to decide on the best course of action for your lawn and determine whether or not an insecticide is needed.
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