Common Florida Pests

Chinch Bugs

Chinch bugs are tiny insects which suck the juices from grass plants. If present in large numbers, chinch bugs can kill large areas or even entire lawns. Their small size makes chinch bugs difficult to detect until large damage is noticed. Chinch bugs reproduce in large numbers, and can reproduce several times in one season. The insect is favored by hot dry weather conditions. Thus, turf grasses are weakened by the same weather that favors the damage caused by chinch bug feeding. The damage is usually permanent, and requires resodding.

Thatch can be a contributing factor. Thatch provides a natural cover for chinch bug activity. Thick thatch layers also cause turf grasses to be more stressed by hot, dry weather. Thatch management is part of insect damage prevention. Watering once or twice a week, and watering heavily each time, is helpful in preventing chinch bug damage. The water increases the hardiness of the turf grass, and provides a less favorable environment for the insect.

Sod Webworms

Sod webworms are the larval or caterpillar stage of a small tan moth, often seen flying over the turf in early evening during May through mid-summer. Sod webworms feed on the grass blades just above the soil line. The feeding defoliates the lawn where the sod webworms chew off the grass. Sod webworms feed at night and hide in the thatch during the day. Presence of the larvae may not be noticed until significant damage has occurred. Large numbers of tan moths on your lawn in the early morning may be evidence of sod webworms infestation. Thatch maintenance at less than ¾ inch thickness is helpful in decreasing the chance of sod webworm activity. Watering the lawn to prevent drought stress also is helpful. If you notice large numbers of moths on your lawn, or small spots where grass blades have been chewed away, contact Pestology.

Mole Crickets

Mole crickets are one of the most destructive insects of lawn turf in the South-Eastern United States. All warm-season grasses can be attacked by mole crickets. However, Bahia Grass and Bermuda Grass are damaged most severely. Mole crickets damage turfgrass by tunneling and by direct feeding. Their tunneling action loosens the soil so that the grass is uprooted and dies. As they burrow through the soil, they also leave mounds of dirt on the surface. Mole crickets may also feed directly on grass root systems.

This can seriously weaken the plants. Insecticides are currently the best control method for mole crickets in turf grass. Even with proper product application, control may be limited due to unfavorable temperatures, lack of soil moistures, or both. Irrigation is essential following the application of a spray or granular material, to ensure that the material is carried into the root zone where the mole crickets are feeding and tunneling.

Scale Insects

The first signs of a scale problem are leaf yellowing, branch dieback and general decline of the plant. Although very small, scale insects are usually present in large numbers. They form what looks like a crust on the branches of plants, such as sago palms. The insects extract sap and nutrients from the plant, weakening it and making it more susceptible to winter damage and drought stress. Scale control begins with a horticultural oil spray in the fall, winter or spring for protection against overwintering adults. Treatment continues with sprays and root applications, through summer, to control the crawler stages of scale. In some cases, it may take up to two years to fully gain control.

You can help to prevent scale by:
1. Following a sound fertilization program.
2. Watering thoroughly in dry months to maximize plant vigor.