Types of Insects that Can Harm Your Lawn, Plants, Shrubs and Trees
Identification: Aphids are light green, soft-bodied, pear-shaped insects that are usually wingless and measure about 1/16 inch at maturity.
Affected Grasses: Bluegrass and Fescue
Damage: Aphids have peircing sucking mouth parts. On tender shoots and leaves, the feeding can cause the shoots and leaves to become distorted and leaves may pucker. The aphids suck sap from the plants. As the sap moves through the insect, the aphid removes any necessary nutrients. The concentrated sap is passed as honeydew (insect fecal matter).
Identification: The larvae are a dull yellow to gray with stripes running down the length of the body.
Affected Grasses: Bermudagrass, Other forage grasses which are hosts are bahiagrass, pearl millet, sorghumsudan hybrids, and tall fescue.
Damage: Fall armyworm damage may vary in appearance and severity according to the type of grass and management practices. The grass may seem to thin out and develop brown spots similar to those sometimes seen on golf courses. These spots look burned or browned out. This appearance is the result of grass plants rapidly dehydrating after fall armyworm larvae have chewed off the tender foliage. For this reason, fall armyworm damage often resembles drought damage.
Identification: Billbug larvae are legless white grubs. They measure about 3/8” long and are very fat, with a larger tail end than head end. The head capsule can vary from orange to brown in color. Adult billbugs are weevils that can vary in color from dark gray to black.
Affected Grasses: Bluegrass, Zoysia, Bermuda
Damage: Damage occurs in the larval stages. The larvae burrow downward inside the grass stems and chew on the stem base, crowns and roots. Injured plants break off easily at the crown when pulled. A fine, light brown “sawdust” is visible in the root zone and on the broken stems of affected plants. Damage can be seen as spotty patches of yellow or dead grass. Injury frequently occurs near sidewalks and driveways, but entire lawns can be affected.The bluegrass billbug does its damage from July to August. The hunting billbug does its damage from June through October.
Identification: Chinch bug nymphs change color as they mature. Young nymphs are bright red with a white band. Older nymphs progress from orange-brown to gray and finally black. Adults are about 1/5” long with white wings.
Affected Grasses: St. Augustine and Zoysia
Damage: Both nymphs and adults are damaging to turf grass. All stages can be present at any one time. Chinch bugs damage turf by sucking the plant juices. Damaged grass turns yellow, then brown. Visible damage begins as irregular patches in open, sunny areas. Injury occurs during hot, dry summer months and is most severe on drought-stressed turf.
Identification: Clover mites are small eight-legged, spider-like insects. Their have reddish-brown bodies and long front legs that extend forward.
Affected Grasses: Kentucky bluegrass, bent grass and fine fescues.
Damage: Both immature mites and adult clover mites do damage. Mites damage turf grass by piercing turf blades and sucking plant juices. Injured grass appears silvered or yellowed in color and is often located near house foundations or other verticle surfaces with warm south or west exposures. Injury occurs in the spring, sometimes also in the fall.
Identification: Black cutworm larvae are pale gray to black in color with a pale stripe down their backk.The Bronze cutworm is dark, brown-black in color on its back with a pale underside.
Affected Grasses: All grass types
Damage: The larval caterpillars cause damage to turf. They feed at night, chewing off grass blades close to the base of the plant. This damage causes brown spots about 1-2” in diameter to form around burrows and green frass pellets can also be found in the feeding areas. Bird feeding may also indicate cutworm presence.
Identification: Sod webworm larvae are cream to dull gray colored caterpillars. They have many pairs of dark spots on their body and are about .75” long at maturity. Sod webworm adults are moths that are gray to tan in color.
Affected Grasses: Fine fescue and bluegrass.
Damage: Sod webworm larvae chew on grass blades and shoots. This feeding causes browning of turf in irregular patches to form. They also construct silk tunnels in the thatch layer. Green frass pellets are evidence of webworm activity. Probing by birds may indicate the presence of sod webworms. Sod webworms are a problem in northern areas; they are usually not a problem in the south. They do their damage during summer months.
Identification: White grubs are the larvae of various scarab beetles; however, all grubs are similar in appearance. They all are white to grayish in color with a brown head. Adult beetles have hard wings and normally vary in color from brown to black. Japanese beetles have coppery brown wings and metallic green bodies.
Affected Grasses: Nearly all grasses
Damage: The grubs damage turf by feeding on its roots. The grass then wilts, turns brown and may die. Birds, skunks, raccoons, moles and armadillos may disrupt sod in search of grubs and sod may pull up easily depending on the degree of damage. Grubs do their damage during late summer into early fall.
Winter grain mites
Identification: Winter grain mites are very small, spider-like insects with eight reddish-orange legs. Young mites have a reddish-orange body that turns to a black color as the mites mature. They also have a red spot on their hind area.
Affected Grasses: Bluegrass, perennial rye grass and fescue
Damage: Mites damage turf by piercing leaf blades and removing plant juices. The affected grass looks “silvered” and damaged areas do not green up in spring. Injury may be confused with frost damage or winter desiccation. Winter grain mites do their damage during winter months, as their name implies. Their populations peak in February to March.