Mole Crickets in Florida Lawns
Checking Insect Numbers In the Lawn:
Scouting for mole crickets and the sighns of damage they can do should be done frequently to carefully monitor both harmful and beneficial insect populations.
Origins of Mole Crickets:
The problem with these insects comes from the fact that, being a South American accidental import, there are few natural enemies in place here in North Florida and literally millions of acres of their favored food supply of Bahia grass, much of those millions of acres are minimally maintained roadsides where control of these pests goes unchecked.
These insects are a brownish tan color and adults can reach up to 1 ½ inches in length. When I look at the head one, it reminds me of a tiny tan lobster but that’s just me, and I’m no Entomologist. I can’t even spell Entomologist.
Both the tawny Mole Cricket and The Southern Mole cricket are known to damage grass lawns in Florida.
These tiny night crawlers are pests on lawn grass for two reasons.
The first is displacement damage due to their tunneling activities. According the specialists over at IFAS they have been found to tunnel as much as 20 feet in a single night! That’s a long way to go when you’re an inch long. The tunneling activity of these pests when present in substantial quantities tends to uproot grass that can end up dying from drying out on the soils surface.
The second way these insects are pests on grass lawns is they feed on grass roots, and again when present in large numbers their feeding eventually thins out lawn grass leaving bare patches of exposed soils.
Feeding Habits of Mole Crickets:
Feeding by both nymphs and mature mole crickets occur in warm temperatures and will follow irrigation or rain showers. These nocturnal feeding insects tunnel back into the soil into their burrows during the day and are known to remain there for fairly long periods when conditions aren’t preferable to them.
Reproduction and Life Cycle:
Mole crickets lay their eggs in hollowed out chambers in the soil. An average female is said to lay around 35 eggs in anywhere from three to five chambers. That’s a multiplication rate of a minimum of 100 from 1! Eggs will hatch from the tawny mole cricket mostly in early June in North Florida and continue in to September further south with the southern mole cricket. The nymphs or immature hatchlings from the eggs crawl to the surface at night where they feed on organic materials in the landscape and even other insects.
Control of Mole Crickets in Jacksonville | St. Augustine | North Florida:
Nature’s checks and balances on these pests include fire ants, labidura earwigs, lycosa spiders, ground beetles, and in the case of the southern mole cricket even other mole crickets (they are cannibalistic)
Raccoons, skunks, foxes and armadillos feed on mole crickets as well but they often do more damage to the sod digging for them than the mole crickets could do on their own.
Scientists are hard at work in an attempt to find a balance to these pests in nature. A parasitic nematode is still being studied and a parasitic fly is being tested and is now released and established in Florida in an effort to control these unwanted pests.
Fertilizing, mowing and watering at recommended application rates keeps grass deep rooted and healthy enough to tolerate Mole Crickets without substantial damage to the lawn!
If mole cricket damage was noted in the previous year’s lawn and tunneling is seen in the spring months then chemical treatment in July may be necessary.
Several types of treatment are currently available to the homeowner including Sprays such as Orthene. Granules like Oftanol and Turcam, and baits like Dursban.
Make sure to apply when overnight temperatures are warm (above 60) and the lawn is moist after a rain or after applying ½ inch of water through irrigation. After applying sprays or granules irrigate with another ½ inch of water to get the insecticides into the soil. If using baits skip the 2nd application of water.
A Word of Caution from Me to You:
Perhaps it is my many years of dealing with the people in the Agriculture industry who have lived long lives and encountered many troubles with chemicals during their careers, but I cannot talk about chemical control without at least my mentioning the following concerns.
Make sure to read all directions carefully and apply liquid sprays diluted with water at the application rate recommended on the product label for the pest you are targeting and do not mix stronger than suggested target treatment rates.
Remember that insecticides are POISONS and approach their use with caution, wear protective eye gear and chemical resistant gloves and rubber boots as well as long sleeved shirts and pants. Remember to wash these items separately from other laundry immediately after application and shower after getting the clothes into the laundry.
Lastly but most importantly, pay particular attention to lock unused chemicals up away from visiting children and pets.
So that’s it on the speech about chemicals, I hope I have been able to help you know what’s wrong and how to treat it so now you have to help me sleep easier by indulging me with these motherly concerns, fair trade don’t you think? I’ll sleep easier knowing that you did.