Common Florida Lawn Pest Identification
Florida is a beautiful part of the world. When you drive through Florida neighborhoods, you can’t help being impressed by gorgeous homes with their manicured and pristine lawns. However, if you’re a Central Florida homeowner, you know that it’s a challenge to keep your yard looking great. That’s because of the many lawn-destroying insects in Florida.
Fortunately, you can get help dealing with lawn pests in Florida. Bee Green Pest Control makes lawn care easy. We’re familiar with the most common lawn bugs in Florida, and we have years of professional experience in eradicating the most common lawn-destroying insects like chinch bugs, grub worms, sod webworms and mole crickets. To help you understand what kind of bugs are in Florida lawns, here’s what you need to know about the most common lawn pests in Florida.
The Southern Chinch Bug (Blissus insularis Barber) is one of the most common pest insects found in the southern United States. This bug is particularly present in Central Florida, and it’s the primary pest affecting St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum). Chinch bugs are tiny insects, but they do immense damage to Florida lawns where St. Augustine grass is prevalent. According to information from the University of Florida, chinch bugs do millions of dollars in damage to residential lawns every year.
Adult chinch bugs have black bodies measuring approximately 3/16 inch long. They’re flying insects with white patches on their wings, and they have two subspecies. One chinch bug type has long wings while the other is a shorter-winged insect. Otherwise, chinch bugs are identical in appearance and behavior.
Juvenile chinch bugs start life as oval-shaped white eggs that hatch into yellow larvae and then morph as reddish-orange nymphs. A mature female chinch bug lays approximately 250 eggs in her lifecycle with an average of four eggs per day. Females deposit eggs on grass stems at the point where the plant contacts the top side of the soil.
Both immature and mature chinch bugs feed off grass stems, stolons and crowns which drains the sap and kills the plants at ground level. Chinch bugs tend to dwell in groups or clusters rather than spread themselves out across an entire lawn. Once a chinch bug cluster exhausts a food supply in one area, they move in a mass migration to another lawn area.
Chinch bugs are a hardy species and survive cool weather well. Because Florida’s winter weather is so mild, chinch bug colonies don’t die off with seasonal changes. They keep populating and recolonizing as they move across an entire lawn. Scientific studies report adult chinch bug lifespans average from 10 to as many as 70 days. This depends on the temperature and food supply.
The first sign of a chinch bug lawn infestation is circular patches of discolored grass. Infected areas appear yellowish-brown. They often first occur at lawn edges and water-stressed regions. Chinch bugs prefer dry conditions and thrive well in high sun-exposed areas. Left unchecked, chinch bug colonies continue multiplying and will destroy a once-healthy lawn.
Although chinch bugs are winged, they rarely fly. These lawn-destroying pests usually move at ground level using thatch as a protective cover against predators. When relocating from an exhausted lawn area to a fresh one, chinch bugs can crawl at a rate of 400 feet per hour.
Chinch bugs aren’t native to the United States. They’re an invasive species first identified in the 1700s, likely accidentally brought over from Europe by settlers. Now chinch bugs inhabit the southern United States, and their most desirable habitat is the St. Augustine grass of Florida lawns.
The only way to effectively eradicate a chinch bug infestation is through professional extermination. Once established to the point where dead patches break out on a lawn, these pests have a strong foothold. Fortunately, lawn care professionals have the skills and equipment to fight back and stop an expensive chinch bug plague.
There are over 100 species of grub worms in the United States. Many grub worm species reside in Florida lawns where they do tremendous damage every year. Grub worms are actually beetle larvae. The general scientific category is Phyllophaga with the family name being Scarabaeidae. Most of the grub worms found in Florida lawns are immature Scarab beetles. They are also immature May beetles (subfamily Melolonthini) which are often called June bugs. Other common grub worms are larvae from Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica Newman) and Green June beetles (Catinis nitida Linnaeus).
Beetle larvae are often called white grub worms from their light color and wormy C-shape. Most grub worms have a bright white body with a brown head. All grub worm larvae have three pairs of legs, which let them walk and burrow rather than crawl like a true worm. Larvae sizes range from ¾ to 1 ¾ inch long while adult beetles average about 1 inch in diameter.
The Phyllophaga beetle life cycle varies depending on the subspecies. Some insects have a one-year lifespan while others survive up to four years. The most destructive beetles live approximately three years, and during that time can do extensive damage to a lawn.
Phyllophaga beetle species lay eggs under the ground where the larvae or grub worms feed on the lawn grass roots. Grub worm habitat isn’t particular to St. Augustine grass like chinch bugs prefer. They’ll infest any type of lawn grass. Grub worms hatch in groups of 15 to 20 larvae and immediately set to work feeding at the roots.
Grub worm feeding activity quickly kills the grass plants. This manifests as dead and dying patches on the lawn surface. Summer is prime time for grub worm hatching. This is when most lawns are established, and the roots are deep enough to provide ideal cover for grub worm larvae.
Grub worms that hatch in the fall will burrow as deep as 5 feet under the surface where they lay dormant for the winter. In Florida, where winters are mild, grub worms still enter a dormant phase. They don’t burrow as deep as those in cold regions. In the spring, grub worms come out of hibernation and resume activity as they mature from the larval stage into adulthood.
Even as adults, these lawn-destroying pests rarely appear above the soil surface. All grub worm damage occurs at the root level. The most evident sign of grub worm activity is large patches of brown or yellowing lawn as the vegetation dies and decays. Infected areas can be localized within a few feet, or they can extend over an entire lawn if not halted.
Professional lawn care intervention should start immediately upon discovering a change in lawn appearance. Because grub worm activity is under the soil and below the lawn foliage, these terrible pests need special attention that most homeowners can’t give. Professional lawn care experts have the knowledge, skills and equipment to attack grub worms and stop them before extensive and expensive damage occurs.
Sod webworms are often referred to as tropical sod webworms. That’s because they’re a warm weather pest that likes tropical and sub-tropical climates like Central Florida. Sod webworms are insect larvae or caterpillars from invasive moths. They hatch and thrive in residential lawns throughout Florida. The choice sod webworm habitat is freshly planted grass or recently transplanted sod on new lawns. The term “web” refers to the juvenile caterpillars forming an interconnected support web among the grass.
Tropical sod webworm larvae are part of a complex insect family that includes armyworms (Spodoptera frugiperda), fiery skippers (Hylephila phyleus) and striped grass lopers (Mocis genus). Sod webworm caterpillars have cream-colored bodies spotted with brown in each segment. They’re recognizable from their dark yellowish-brown heads, and they average around 1 ½ inches long.
Adult sod webworms are dingy-brown moths that have a triangle shape when at rest. Most moths have an approximately ¾ inch wingspan. Adult females lay eggs in clusters of 10 to 35, and they group together in large masses or infestations. These are above-ground insects and deposit eggs within grass stalks or leaves.
Sod webworms have a year-round presence in Central Florida. However, their numbers are much higher in the fall after the summer heat dissipates. Moth and sod webworm populations decline in the winter and then return in the spring. Because of the warm Florida climate, adult moths are active at dusk and throughout the night. In the daytime, moths cover in trees and deep foliage.
Moths lay their eggs in the late evening, and the larvae take three to four days to hatch. Tropical sod webworms then have a larva and pupal stage of 21 to 47 days. During this time, sod webworms have voracious appetites and can wreak havoc on a new lawn in no time.
The first sign of a sod webworm problem is seeing the insects themselves. The caterpillars and their distinctive webs are obvious. So is the presence of mature moths flying about. Sod webworms aren’t picky about grass type. They’ll infest every grass species found in the state.
Sod webworms feed above ground on the grass plants. A sure sign of their activity is certain lawn areas growing slower than others. Tropical sod webworms don’t kill the actual grass plant. Rather, they act like lawn mowers and feast on fresh shoots.
Because tropical sod webworms are so invasive, it’s necessary to get professional help in getting rid of these pests. Lawn care professionals have the experience required to exterminate a moth and caterpillar invasion. It’s a war that homeowners don’t have the weapons to fight.
Mole crickets are one of the most destructive invasive insect species. They’re particularly damaging to Florida lawns. Mole crickets have no preference to grass species as chinch bugs do. These damaging insects will devour whatever grass plant they find.
There are three main mole cricket sub-species in Florida. One is the shortwinged mole cricket (Neoscapteriscus abbreviatus Scudder). The second sub-species is the southern mole cricket (Neoscapteriscus borellii Giglio-Tos). And the third mole cricket sub-species is the tawny mole cricket (Neoscapteriscus vicinus Scudder).
These mole crickets aren’t native to America. This invasive insect species arrived in the late 1800s. Since then, mole crickets firmly established themselves in the warm areas. They’re especially prominent in Central Florida lawns where they do extensive damage every year.
Adult mole crickets are approximately 1 ½ inches long. They’re winged creatures, light brown, and they have elongated forelegs that they use for burrowing or tunneling through the soil, much like a mole does. These appendages are called dactyls. It’s the size and shape of a mole cricket’s dactyls that determines its identity.
All mole cricket species thrive both above and below ground. They’re active year round and have no dormant phase. Adults lay eggs underneath the soil in the spring, and they have one generation per year. Typically, mole crickets are nocturnal and remain in their holes or tunnels during the day. They feed on both grass leaves and roots, making them destructive to lawns from both ends.
Besides patches of dying or dead grass, a sure sign of mole crickets are the mounds of dirt or soil they leave at their tunnel entrances. From a high vantage point like a rooftop, tunnel outlines are visible throughout a yard. Mole cricket tunnels form a patchwork grid that loosens the soil and causes erosion problems.
Another problem with having a mole cricket infestation is the damage that predators do to a lawn. Mole crickets are food for wildlife like birds and raccoons that will dig up a lawn while ferreting out an insect meal. Further, the mole cricket holes are a prime spot for weeds to take hold and overcome a once-healthy lawn. The combination of dying grass and thriving weeds is a predictable outcome from hosting mole crickets.
Mole crickets are difficult pests to exterminate. Because mole crickets work at night and hide during the day, most homeowners have difficulty locating the pests. For any mole cricket presence, a professional lawn care company specializing in insect removal needs to get on the job as soon as possible.
Contact Bee Green Pest Control for Central Florida Lawn Care
Bee Green Pest Control is a family-owned lawn care business serving Central Florida. We’ve solved customers’ invasive insect problems in neighborhoods surrounding Lithia, Riverview, Seffner and beyond. Bee Green is a year-round lawn care company providing complete services like pest control, weed control, fungus and disease control and fertilization. We also offer shrub and ornamental plant care.
As experienced lawn care professionals, Bee Green has a thorough understanding of all lawns and plants in the Central Florida region. We know what makes plants healthy so they stay lush and colorful throughout the seasons. We also know how to effectively deal with invasive pests like chinch bugs, grub worms, sod webworms and mole crickets.
We believe in using a custom approach to all your lawn care needs. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, Bee Green Pest Control professionals provide a systematic solution to your lawn problems. For insect eradication, we use a combination of knock-down pesticides and routine sprays. This takes care of existing pests and ensures future ones don’t take hold.
For the best lawn care and control in Central Florida, contact us today to schedule an estimate for treating pests. You can phone us at 813-661-9300, or you can reach us through our online contact form.