Monday, April 6, 2015

They Are Back - Mole Crickets

Last November I wrote about mole crickets, and judging from the amount of damage to lawns I’m seeing, I need to write about them again. Between having 3 stores, regularly scouting around, and having a whole bunch of friends in the business of killing mole crickets, when they get bad, I hear about it. Right now, they are bad! With some products being removed from the market, we are getting more complaints about mole crickets.   

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. The spring is bad because the grass is still dormant and the damage might go undetected.

To control mole crickets, it is best to scout for them.  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.  The soap irritates their equivalent to our lungs, and brings them to the surface gasping for air. 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. 

This time of year, mole crickets are in their adult stage and are mating and flying around. Often you will notice a little volcano with a hole in the center the size on a number 2 pencil. The male mole cricket uses this volcano to amplify his mating call. 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. Baby mole crickets look like little adults. 

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, granular products, 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, type of soil (they like sand – easier to tunnel), and amount of lights you have on your property that they attract to, the number of applications can vary greatly.

Always read, understand and follow product label. The product label is a Federal Law.