The best defense against insect, disease, and weed infestation is a healthy lawn.
Here is a list of the most common pests we deal with in the residential yard.
Chinch Bugs: The Hairy Chinch Bug is common to our area. It feeds by sucking the juices from the grass plant, much like a mosquito or tick does to people. Typically found in hot, dry areas, chinch bug damage looks much like drought damage, and the true damage doesn’t show until the turf is watered and the unaffected areas green up, but infested areas do not.
“Digger” Bees: There are many species of bees that nest in the ground. They can look intimidating, and may act aggressively, but most are completely harmless. Identified by small mounds of excavated soil from their nesting. Most famous is the “Cicada Killer” wasp. Despite their very scary appearance, they will NOT harm you. You typically see the males buzzing around small mounds of soil the females have excavated for their nest. The males are looking for a female to mate with. The aggressive behavior is to warn other males to stay away. They cannot sting. Females can sting if bothered. It takes a LOT to get one to sting a person. Best if simply avoided.
Dollar Spot: Small silver dollar sized patches of damaged turf. Individual grass blades will often have an hourglass shaped lesion midway up. Small patches may coalesce into larger ones.
Fungal diseases: There are a variety of fungi that harm turf grass. Any time the weather turns hot and humid, particularly with high overnight temps, you run the risk of a turf disease. Keep the grass healthy, don’t water between 4 pm and dawn, are two ways to lessen the chance of your lawn getting one. Preventative fungicide applications can be made every 21-28 days. Curative applications can be made as needed or desired. Sometimes diseases will go away on their own, sometimes we have to step in. It can be a tough call. Let us know if you see anything. We can take a look and diagnose the issue at hand.
Grubs: The larvae of any hard shell beetle. The most common source of insect damage to turf, and the most commonly misdiagnosed. If everybody who thought they had grubs actually had them, we would be knee deep in the critters. Feed on the roots, just below the surface. Easy enough to identify by merely tugging on the grass. Heavily damaged turf will roll back like a carpet revealing the grubs underneath. Skunks, raccoons, crows, and other creatures love to feed on grubs, leaving patches of turf that look like they have been roto tilled.
“Patch” diseases: Brown patch and Summer patch are the two most common. Start as small, roughly circular spots. Brown patch has a ugly, grey-brown color, a greyish “smoke ring” can often be seen in the morning around the edges. Patches may grow larger and/or grow together to affect bigger areas.
Pythium: The disease that gives golf course superintendants nightmares. Mainly affects bentgrass, but can hit the home lawn as well. Nearly always fatal and very expensive to control. Cheaper to start over with a new lawn.
Pythium Root Rot: A version of the deadly Pythium. Caused by overwatering newly planted grass. Best way to prevent is to simply not overwater newly seeded areas. Keep it MOIST, not wet.
Red Thread: Small patches of dry-looking grass. Individual plants may have a thin red mycelial thread winding up the grass blade. This disease has gotten worse over the last decade, and no one knows why. Will grow out over time, no permanent affects to your lawn, other than some unsightly patches. Can be treated with fungicides if desired or if disease is severe. If there is a lot of it that won’t go away, check your pH and soil compaction.
Ticks: There are a variety of tick species found in our area. All are ambush hunters, lying in wait for their prey to come along. The main problem is that many of them carry diseases like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Lyme disease is carried by Ixodes Scapularis, or the Deer tick. Lyme disease is the #1 vector borne disease in the US today. If you find a tick on you or a loved one, assume it carries Lyme disease. Many do not, but seek medical attention regardless, and monitor the wound site for the tell-tale bulls eye rash, and flu like symptoms. NOT EVERYONE INFECTED WITH LYME WILL DEVELOP THE RASH OR OTHER SYMPTOMS. Click on the CDC link for more information.
How do you protect yourself? Tuck your pant legs into your socks, use DEET or bifenthrin repellants CAREFULLY. Check yourself after possible exposure. A tick must be embedded and feeding for approximately 24 hours to transfer the disease. If you can remove it before that, chances are you’re OK. Lyme disease is no joke. It ruins lives. It is often mis- or undiagnosed, and not treated until the damage to your central nervous system is done.
Your yard: You can minimize the tick population on your property. A couple of applications of an insecticide will knock them out. I have been successfully (and happily) killing ticks for many years now. Using a 100% organic, very safe product. It’s murder on ticks, but safe for you and yours. Controlling the rodent population (mice, chipmunks, etc.) will help. Keep your grass mowed to no more than 4”, and installing a 4 foot wide mulch or stone barrier around your property wood line will also help. (they dry out easily, and will crisp up before they make it across the barrier or across the lawn) These steps are not tick PROOFING, but they will greatly minimize the population. Also, although not PC, keeping the deer population down helps too. There is a direct, documented correlation between the deer and the deer tick population. Adult deer ticks feed exclusively on deer. It’s the nymphs, or baby ticks, that feed on us, rodents, pets, etc. So support your local hunters.
Tick handbook published by Kirby Stafford, Chief entomologist at the UConn Extension service. Excellent source of information.
Center for Disease Control (CDC) site for Lyme Disease
CDC - Lyme Disease Home Page