There are many insects that feed on the leaves and roots of turfgrass. Many of these insect pests exist in lawns from year to year, but the populations never reach high enough numbers to cause significant damage. Naturally occurring predators and disease generally keep the insect populations in check, however, occassionally the populations suddenly explode and can cause extensive damage to lawns.
What to Look For
Insect damage is often mistaken as drought because the insects have eaten the roots or damaged the leaves causing the lawn to turn brown. When the areas are watered, the lawn does not recover and the damage grows.
Where to Look
Insects will be found on the border of the damage. They will not be found in any great number in the middle of the damage because they have already eaten everything and moved on. They will be found in the transition zone where healthy turfgrass turns into damaged turfgrass.
Give the Lawn a Tug
Tugging on the lawn will help determine if the insects are feeding on the roots or the leaves. If the roots are being eaten, the turfgrass will lift up easily, like newly laid sod. If the leaves are being eaten, the turfgrass will remain rooted to the soil, but you'll come up with a handfull of leaves.
Get Your Eyes Down to Soil Level
Get down on your hands and knees and examine the thatch layer for any insect activity. Chinch Bugs live in the thatch and can often be seen scurrying around. Grubs will be easily seen when the sod is turned over and the root zone examined.
Soapy Water and a Bottomless Can
Push a bottomless can into the soil and fill with soapy water. Any insects living in the thatch will float to the surface, making identification much easier. Coffee cans work well because they are wide and tall.
When in Doubt - Call the Experts
If you want help in identifying a potential insect problem, call your local Nutri-Lawn Expert and we'll come out and take a look. Our turfgrass experts will be able to tell you what the problem is and what the best control strategies are.