By Clarence Washington
Oklahomans take pride in their lawns. But as much as we spend in time and money keeping our lawns lush and green, there are pests actively working to undo our hard work. They’re out there damaging and killing the grass. Here are some of the worst lawn destroying insects you’ll find in OKC.
Dig down an inch or two in your yard, and if you come across a curled little bug that looks like an alien, you have grubs. White grubs are the larvae of June bugs and Japanese beetles and can wreak havoc on your lawn. They eat the roots of your lawn and leave behind areas of brown, dead grass. If you find five or fewer per square foot, you probably don’t need to treat them. More than that, and you need a pesticide to kill the little critters. There is also a preventative pesticide option that you use when the grubs are young, to kill them before they cause a lot of damage.
If you have small patches of dead grass in your lawn, you could be looking at billbug damage. Oklahomans aren’t alone in fighting billbugs — these pests are pretty common from Texas all the way into the Upper Midwest. These weevils, or snout beetles, can be brown, gray or nearly black, but you may not actually see one because they like to hide during the day, moving from plant to plant at night. You’re more likely to see the damage — the larvae like to eat inside the stems and roots of different species of grasses. They also dig out holes in the stems to lay their gray eggs.
The larvae of the sod webworm moth cut down blades of grass and drag them into tunnels lined with silk webbing they’ve built in the dirt. The damage looks like patches of close-cropped dead grass — and these pests can destroy your lawn quickly. You’re more vulnerable if your lawn is a cool-season grass variety, like Kentucky bluegrass or fine fescue. But bermudagrass, which is common in Oklahoma, is not immune. The Oklahoma State University Extension Turfgrass Science division suggests mixing an ounce of liquid detergent with a gallon of water and sprinkling it on a square yard of lawn you suspect may be infested. The caterpillars should surface in about 10 minutes. If you have 10 or more larvae per square yard, you need to treat your lawn with the appropriate pesticides to get rid of the webworms.
These critters live up to their name. Like an army, these larvae hatch in large numbers and destroy above-ground plants, killing your grass in the meantime. These are not native Oklahomans. The moths migrate out of Texas and Mexico into Oklahoma in June, where the female moths lay their eggs. Unlucky Oklahoma homeowners will see the green, brown or black larvae emerge and chow down on their plants for a few weeks, before digging themselves into the ground to pupate. You can test for armyworm caterpillars with the same detergent test used to find webworms.
If you don’t already have an infestation, you can take preventive action by planting perennial native plants that naturally repel pests.
If any of these pest species pay your lawn a visit, however, they can become serious infestations before you realize there is a problem, and in that case, you’ll need the professionals at Atlas Oklahoma to get rid of what’s bugging you.
Clarence Washington is a longtime landscaper sold on native plants and biodiversity. His backyard is a certified wildlife habitat.