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Category Archives: Knowledge Centre

All About Lawn Pests

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Your lawn is full of pests, some good, and some not so good. Here is some information about some of the not so good ones and what to look for if you think they may have invaded your space.

Chinch bug are a small, surface feeding insect which bite into the blade of the grass and suck the “juices” out.  The grass then turns yellow or brown.  If treated early the roots of the grass are still alive and the lawn can recover.  A lawn with a chinch bug infestation will have an overall unhealthy look or there will be patches of brown, dead grass which are usually on sunny, dry areas of the lawn.  If left untreated the lawn may eventually die.  Severe damage is not usually noticed until August after the occurance of several weeks of hot, dry weather.  Treatment timing may vary from year to year due to weather fluctuations causing a change in the hatching time of the eggs.

Sod Webworm ( or lawn moths) usually do most of their damage in the spring or fall.  These caterpillars live in the thatch ( dead grass layer) and chew the crown of the plant just above the root.  The dead grass pulls away easily in clumps, revealing silky “webs”.  There are 2 or more hatchings of these insects per year, usually spring and fall.  The larvae are 1-2 cm long and change to the adult moth which lays eggs.  The cycle then repeats.  Moths can be seen flying in the lawn when you are walking on or mowing the grass.

European Cranefly are not typically found in Ontario.  The first sightings of them were reported in 1996 in Whitby, Toronto and Hamilton.  In the Orangeville area we noticed the first major infestation in spring 2006.  Many of the lawns were showing damage.  The adult Cranefly look like a large mosquito.  The larvae are also known as leatherjackets due to their thick skin.  These “ caterpillars” are llight greyish brown with black specks.  There is no visible head region and they are tapered at both ends.  Larvae range in size from 0.5 – 3.0 cm in length.  Leather jackets feed mostly on grass shoots during evening and grass roots during the day.  On dam days they igrate to the surface and you may notice them on driveways, patios and sidewalks after a rainfall.  Damage beings to show between early to mid-May and peaks by mid-June.

The yearly cycle of these insects are as follows…

Eggs hatch in October and the new larvae ( leatherjackets) are small and very difficult to see.  They feed and grow throughout the winter just at or under the soil surface eating grass roots and crowns.  By the second week in June the larvae stop feeding and move down 3-5 cm. in the soil.  They remain there in a non-feeding stage throughout the summer until late August when they emerge from the soil usually after sunset as an adult Cranefly.  These “mosquito-like” insects are weak fliers and often cling to the sides of buildings and fences.  After breeding they lay their eggs in the soil and the eggs hatch late fall.  This pest thrives in mild winter, cool summers and years with heavy rainfall.

White grubs is a general term describing the larvae of several types of beetles, such as June beetle, Japanese beetle, Billbug and European Chafer beetle.  A healthy lawn can withstand quite a few grubs without showing any ill effects, provided that the skunks and raccoons do not dig for them.  The damage from animals can be far more severe than the grubs themselves.

European Chafer is by far the most prevalent of these grubs.  In June-July the beetles emerge from the soil during the evening, fly up to nearby trees and breed.  Before dawn they lay their eggs in the soil which hatch toward the end of July.  The larvae ( or grub) feed on grass roots until freeze up then move deeper in the soil to overwinter.  In spring the grubs feed until they pupate into a beetle again in July.  The cycle repeats yearly. Chafer are a non-native pest which eat the grass at root level, causing patches of grass to die.  Damage from the insect is usually at its worst in the fall.

Moles, Voles and Field Mice.  Damage from these rodents is usually seen in the spring after the snow melts.  These pests make tunnels or runways under the snow, or in the case of moles underground.  The reason for this is that they are often eating grass and grass roots.  Often these “ runways” will fill in on their own after a raking out of the dead grass.  In some cases seeding may be required.

Give us a call and we will take care of these pests for you so that you can continue to enjoy your lawn.

Aerating and Overseeding. Why do we need to do it?

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People question whether or not these techniques are necessary in the healthy life of a lawn. Here’s some more information for you to help with your decision whether or not to proceed.

Why aerate?  Unfortunately you can’t dig up you lawn every spring and fall to improve the soil like you can your garden bed.  However, there is a machine called an aerator which takes soil “ plugs” out of the sod.  By doing this we can reduce oil compaction around the root zone of the grass and slow oxygen, water and nutrients to get down were it is most beneficial.  Aerations improves plant health by allowing the roots to grow deeper in the soil.  A deep root system enables the grass to withstand hot summer weather and harsh cold winters.  Improved air circulation increases the microbial activity and thatch breaks down much faster lessening the chance of disease.  We recommend that you aerate you lawn once a year, in either spring or fall.

Overseeding.   Over time lawns can become thin due to various stressors such as insects, compaction and improper maintenance.  Lawns grown from sod are usually made up mostly of bluegrass blends of grass.  We recommend that you upgrade you lawn by adding pest and disease resistant varieties of grasses.  New varieties of rye grasses contain naturally occurring endophytes which resist disease and some pests such as sod webworms and chinch bugs.  Any lawn can benefit from occasionally adding new strains of more desirable grasses.  A thick, healthy lawn is also the best defence against weed infestations.

Lawn diseases occur due to certain weather conditions such as a wet, cool spring followed by a hot summer.  Sometimes the reasons are due to improper watering and cutting practices, or a thatch build up.  Names of the most common lawn diseases are:

  • Necrotic Ring Spot ( Frogs Eye)
  • Powdery Mildew
  • Fairy Ring
  • Leaf Spot
  • Rust on Perennial Rye grass
  • Dollar spot
  • and Snow Mold

Most diseases can be brought back under control by changing the conditions of the lawn:

  • Aeration can help breakdown thatch as well as improve circulation of air around the root are of the grass
  • If the area is very shady, pruning of some of the tree branches may be necessary.
  • Water only 1X  per week ( 2X in sandy soil) in the morning only NOT in the evening.
  • Make sure your lawn mower blade is sharp and don’t cut off too much of the grass at a time.  Cut the lawn leaving no less than 2 ½ – 3 inches of grass blade.
  • Over seed with disease resistant grass types.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Answers to the most popular questions we receive and more! We’ve been doing this since 1973, let our experience do the work for you.

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