How To Control Lawn Pests

The best way to keep insects, diseases, and weeds out of your lawn is to grow a vigorous, healthy lawn. You will never get rid of all the pest organisms, but you can keep them to an acceptable level without using dangerous chemicals. The truth is, even if you do use chemicals you can’t get rid of all the pests forever.

Your first step is to grow a grass that is suited for your climate and for your specific conditions. Grow a warm season grass if you live in a warm climate.

Plant a lawn that tolerates shade if your spot is shady. When you grow the right grass in the right spot it will be more pest resistant naturally.

Following is information about two of the most common insects that damage turf grass—just in case!

Japanese Beetles

japanese beetle damage

Japanese beetles have a wide-ranging diet that includes turf grass (and 300 other species of plants). By some counts Japanese beetles cause more damage to U.S. lawns than any other insect. Adult Japanese beetles feed on leaves, flowers, and fruit. It is the larval (or white grub) stage of this beetle that feeds on the roots of grass, causing major damage to lawns.

By chewing on the grass roots the Japanese beetle grubs make it harder for the grass to take up water, making the turf more vulnerable to drought and heat. The consequence is large dead patches of lawn.

Methods to control Japanese beetles include the following:

• Water deeply and infrequently. Roots will get the water they need but the top inches of soil will be too dry for beetles and grubs.
• Pick off adults and drop them in a bucket of soapy water.
• Apply milky spore, a pathogen that kills adults and grubs. It takes 2-4 years for the milky spore to become effective, but control lasts for 15 years.
• Apply parasitic nematodes when grubs are small, watering before and after the application.
• Use diatomaceous earth, which is ground up fossilized algae with very sharp edges that destroy the shells of crawling insects. Diatomaceous earth does not hurt earthworms and larger animals.
• Apply pesticides. Pesticides will be effective only if the proper pesticide is applied correctly at the right time. Pesticides differ for adults and for white grubs.
• Dethatch lawns to eliminate hiding places for grubs and make it easier for pesticides and other treatments to reach them.

There are a number of other grubs that damage Japanese beetles and can be controlled with these methods.

Chinch Bugs

Chinch bugs are tiny insects that feed on lawns, leaving irregular dry, brown patches. They show up as small red dots. Chinch bugs favor dry conditions.
The standard control methods for chinch bugs are to:

• Overseed with clover to make the turf grass less vulnerable to chinch bugs.
• Remove thatch in the fall to eliminate overwintering and breeding habitat.
• Vacuum chinch bugs off lawn.
• Replant with plants that are not susceptible to chinch bugs.
• Keep soil moist.

Other Lawn Pests

Moles, ground hogs, weeds, and a number of other insects also damage turf grass. For all these pests prevention is the best cure: Grow the healthiest, strongest lawn you can and you will have fewer serious pest problems.