Ask The Expert: Subsurface & Surface Feeding Insects

It’s a common misnomer in the Green Industry when we talk about a summer lull, especially when it comes to lawn care. The chaos of the spring season is supposed to wind down and you finally get to take a breath and decompress a little. In reality, the season ahead is the most challenging but if you have a great turf program, you can avoid a lot of stress on the lawns and more importantly, the stress on you and your team. Early summer ushers in a three-pronged threat to turf that if not managed, can wreak havoc and turn your summer into a very long season of costly call backs and service calls—and ultimately some very unhappy customers.

The Big Three: Drought Stress, Turf Disease, and Insect Infestations

The big three are heat and drought stress, turf diseases and insect infestations. With a great turf program, you can address all three and increase your revenue in the process. All of this begins with educating your customers. It’s a team effort to have a quality lawn. You can avoid catastrophe simply by educating your customers on proper cultural practices. It’s not rocket science. You can keep it simple but you must communicate with your customers. Repetition is the key. The same goes for your lawn techs. Keep it simple.

In this article, I will discuss summer insect control solutions and how the right program can save you money, labor and wear and tear on you and your technicians. Chinch Bugs, Billbugs, Greenbug Aphids, Cutworms and Sod Webworms are some of the most common surface feeding insects that may be feasting on your lawns at this very moment. The destruction is often misdiagnosed because insect damage tends to be mistaken for symptoms of drought stress or turf diseases which begin to occur in most regions about the same time that insects emerge and begin to feed on plants and roots.

These pests share a common target but they vary in destruction methods and life cycle. Proper timing of applications with a proven control product in conjunction with persistent scouting can save you time, money and spare you from the stress and anxiety of having to put out fires all summer long.

You can significantly reduce the need for insecticides by applying fertilizers that contain ample amounts of viable organic matter. Many surface feeding insects like chinch bug like to live in the moist thatch layer. Thatch forms around the crowns and stems of turfgrass from roots that punch through the soil surface to take in nutrients and oxygen. These surfaced roots are then exposed and quickly die, thus creating a layer of built-up decaying matter that holds moisture and blocks air circulation and sunlight from a significant portion of the plant. This is common in compacted soils with poor drainage and creates optimal conditions for pathogens.

Insects & Thatch Consumption

A stimulated biomass will consume thatch which allows for air circulation and sunlight to dry out crowns and stems of the turf at the soil surface thus eliminating an environment conducive to surface feeding insects and turf diseases. What about subsurface feeding insects that consume roots? Grub control is a huge deal in professional turf management. Grubs can do a great deal of damage if left unchecked.

In many areas of the country grubs can inflict irreparable damage to turfgrass especially in drought conditions on non-irrigated turf. Grubs feed on the roots of turfgrasses, cutting off water and nutrient uptake by the plant. Controlling grub populations will also help control the adult beetles that emerge from the soil to feed on valuable plants in our landscapes and gardens.

Also, grubs are a desirable natural food source for wildlife such as moles, racoons and skunks that dig up the turf while foraging for grubs, causing massive damage to the turf  which allows undesirable weeds to take over in the damaged areas.

Grubs are the larval stage of beetles and chafers. There are hundreds of grub species that can exist in the soil but only a few common grubs are the most problematic in the united states. Most are common white grubs i.e. Japanese beetle. European chafer. Asiatic garden beetle. Oriental beetle. May/June beetles and masked chafer.

A healthy, well maintained stand of turf can withstand grub infestations of up to 9 grubs per square foot. Adequate rainfall and properly irrigated turf will minimize the damage caused by grubs but in some instances too much moisture can create optimal conditions for surface feeding insects and turf diseases.

So, how do you overcome this darned if you do, darned if you don’t situation without breaking your budget, causing more damage or exposing you, your team and your customers to harmful chemicals that have a negative impact on the environment?

  1. Apply a balance of carbon rich, viable organic matter and nutrients that will stimulate the soil biomass to promote healthier plants and roots and eliminate thatch buildup.
  2. Apply a well-timed control for grubs and surface feeding insects at the proper rates of active ingredients with both contact and systemic control.
  3. Avoid 100% conventional fertilizers that are inefficient, high in salt content and force surge growth which leads to undue stress on the plant and the roots.

This might sound complicated but it’s not. You can do all of these things with one product.

Hudson Valley Natural – Jackpot 17-0-4 with Imida/Lambda

  • Late spring/through summer applications for control of grubs and other subsurface feeding insects plus surface feeding insects i.e. chinch bug.
  • Low percentage of active ingredient at 0.2% imidacloprid and 0.04% Lambda – label signal word of caution.
  • Systemic and contact control of grubs and other subsurface feeding larvae along with surface feeding insects including flees, ticks, ants, spiders and chinch bugs
  • Provides season long control of sub-surface feeding insects with a single application and up to 30 days of control of many surface feeding insects
  • Very low toxicity to humans and animals.
  • 60% more Imidacloprid than Allectus.

Hudson Valley Natural has solutions for all of your turf management problems with a team of experienced experts on hand to help you keep it simple and to help you grow your business.

Better Solutions. Better Value. Better Environment.