Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mole Crickets

Here’s my question…the other day I was washing my dog in my backyard and lots of worms and another brownish insect about two inches long with little pinchers came to the surface.  What were these brownish insects and are they bad for the grass?

While you were washing your dog, you surfaced mole crickets.  The soap irritates their equivalent to our lungs, and brings them to the surface gasping for air. With some products being removed from the market, we are getting more complaints about them. 

These guys definitely damage turf.  Their damage is not caused by them eating the roots of the plants, as many people think, but is actually caused by them tunneling near the surface and separating the roots from the soil.  When the roots are separated from the soil, the grass plant dries out and dies.  This tunneling can cause big problems when there is a drought. When the soil is dry, it separates quickly from the plants roots.  Regular rains, irrigation or rolling the ground with a sod roller, can help keep the plant alive by keeping the roots in contact with the soil. 

To control mole crickets, it is best to scout for them as you have done unintentionally while washing your dog.  Get two ounces of lemony dish soap in five gallons of water and slowly pour it over a 2 x 2 area where you may think you have mole crickets.  This will drive them to the surface and depending on how many surface, you can then decide whether to treat your yard or not.  A golf course green would have less tolerable amount than a home lawn. 

In the springtime, mole crickets are in their adult stage and are mating and flying around.  This is a good time to treat them because you will break up their life cycle before they produce new babies. 

Later, in June and July, if you use a soap flush again; you will see the baby mole crickets.  Baby mole crickets are easy to kill because they do not fly. 

In the fall, the small mole crickets will have grown into young adults, have wings, and will tunnel near the surface and fly around.  Depending on the amount of mole crickets in your yard, these are the three critical times to treat for them. 

Many control products are available to kill mole crickets.  Some work better depending on the stage of life of the mole cricket.   There are baits, parasitic nematodes, contact killers, spray products, etc.  When going after the baby mole cricket, always be sure to use a product that goes through the thatch layer and into the soil where the baby mole cricket resides.  Depending on your population of mole crickets, the number of applications can vary greatly.