Photograph by David Shetlar, Ohio State University
Ground pearls are shaped like pearls, hence the name, but certainly not a treasure. These insects live deep in the soil and suck the fluids from the roots of centipede turf. Currently, there are no insecticides for these turf destroying insects. If ground pearls are present, the lawn will yellow and brown quickly. The only correction for ground pearl is to properly install a new St. Augustine or Zoysia lawn.
Sod webworm larvae (caterpillars) are gray to tan with small dark spots on the body and brown heads. The larval stage is the most damaging of the tropical sod webworms life-cycle. Adult sod webworms, sometimes referred to as "lawn moths" are buff-colored, about 1/2 to 3/4 inches long. The most serious turfgrass injury usually occurs in the fall. Sod webworms feed at night. Signs of damage include areas of ragged grass blades that are shorter than other areas of the grass, thinning of the lawn, and eventually brown patchy areas. The moths will scatter as you walk through the grass. Because the adult webworms do not feed on the grass, THE MOTHS DO NOT DAMAGE THE TURF. Numerous webworm adult sightings does not mean damage will occur.
In general, healthy turfgrass is less prone to pest pressure and will recover much faster from pest damage. Here are a few cultural practices that may help control sod webworms:
Mowing Height: Maintain a proper mowing height for the variety of turfgrass you have in your yard.
Reduce Thatch: Mowing at the proper height and frequency will eliminate the chance of a thatch buildup.
Do Not Overwater: Make sure your lawn is getting the correct amount of water, including rainfall.
Chinch bugs are tiny, about 1/10 to 1/8 inch long. Chinch bug damage usually appears first as small brown areas that gradually enlarge as the bugs move out of dead spots and into green turf. Chinch bug damage begins around May when the weather turns hot and dry. Turf grass damage tends to first appear in the sunniest, driest areas of the lawn, such as along the edge of a street or driveway or in an open, south-facing area. These bugs tend to avoid wet areas and the damage does not occur in cool weather, nor does it generally occur in shade. Most populations of chinch bugs have developed some level of resistance to most homeowner pesticides making a single application ineffective. Chinch bug control requires careful attention.
Mole crickets are a serious lawn pest for many Floridians. These insects can do major damage in the spring & fall to any species of grass. Mole crickets are a unique and unusual family of crickets that spend most of their life underground and have modified “hands” (front legs) that help them tunnel through the soil. They tunnel through the soil, often close to the soil surface, severing grass roots and causing the earth to bulge upwards. They also eat the roots and shoots of plants where they are tunneling. Mole cricket tunneling and feeding damage looks like ugly brown patches of dying or dead grass. Predators such as armadillos may dig up the turf to snack on the crickets, which creates even more of a mess.