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20 Lawn Pests and How to Fight Them
Having a perfect lawn is one of those American dreams that just about everyone strives for, even if it carves out a hefty chunk of time from our busy schedules.
While managing all the basics, including watering, mowing, landscaping and fertilizing, is fairly straight forward, there’s one aspect of lawn care that’s less easy to control – the insects and wildlife that make it their home.
These pests are numerous and varied. Underground, your grass could become a meal for white grubs and billbugs. Other insects, including armyworms and fiery skipper caterpillars could attack the stalks of your favorite turf grass. You also have to watch out for the ants, mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, snails and slugs that simply live in your lawn and make life difficult for you elsewhere. If all those bugs aren’t enough of a problem, then you also have to deal with the wildlife drawn to your yard by the presence of such tasty treats.
Through it all, though, you know that you want to address these problem pests as safely as possible. With that in mind, you can deal with many of these insects and animals by using OMRI Listed® products, which are listed as compliant for use in organic gardening. You can use these products with confidence, knowing they won’t persist in the environment.
Wondering what pests may be the problem? Check out our list of 20 common lawn pests and solutions to get rid of them!
Little Black Ants
Pavement AntsHelpful Links
Ants generally are spotted as they forage through your home and lawn. Some ants, including fire ants, create ant hills that are visible through grass. Carpenter ants infest wood and wood-built objects. Ants don't pose a direct threat to lawns, but are considered a nuisance.
Armyworm Moth Larvae
Fall ArmywormsHelpful Links
Armyworms are smooth-skinned and about 1 1/2 inches long. Body color varies, but generally is yellow, green, dark brown or black. Stripes run down their side. Armyworms feed on grass plants, creating brown patches that may appear to be drought stress.
Billbug LarvaeHelpful Links
Turf is damaged in irregular patches, which makes it easy to pull up. Check these areas for legless, C-shaped grubs about 3/8 of an inch long with red-colored heads.
Mice, Moles, Rats, Voles
A large variety of mammals can create problems with your lawn. Often, these animals excavate large sections of turf in a hunt for grubs. Other problems include the excessive nitrogen in dog urine, which creates “lawn burn.” Moles, chipmunks, gophers or groundhogs are usually responsible for tunneling and mound creation. To determine what kind of wildlife is causing lawn damage, observe the area or set up a game camera.
Masked Chafer Larvae
Masked Chafer Grubs
Northern Masked Chafers
White GrubsHelpful Links
Masked chafer grubs feed on roots of lawn grasses, often creating irregular patches of brown, dying grass by late summer and fall. Digging up a sample will reveal white or yellowish C-shaped grubs. These grubs may attract skunks and moles, too.
Pale Western Cutworms
Cutworms are hard to detect in lawns because their damage isn’t very obvious. In a garden, they can have a devastating impact on plantings, which can include fallen plants and holes in leaves. Most cutworms are hairless caterpillars that hide under debris in the day and feed at night.
Apply Safer® Brand Garden Dust to areas where these worms are present.
Fiery Skipper Butterflies
Fiery Skipper Caterpillars
Fiery Skipper Moths
Fiery Skipper Larvae
This hairless green-gray caterpillar with a black head grows up to an inch long and will later transform into the brightly colored fiery skipper butterfly. As a caterpillar, the fiery skipper creates brown spots in lawns that are about 2 inches long. Infestations may occur, showing multiple spots that link together in an irregular patch. Eggs are laid under grass leaves.
Apply Safer® Brand Caterpillar Killer II with B.t. to areas where these worms are present.
While fleas won’t harm lawns, their presence in lawns can create problems for pets and humans using it. Look for small black insects around your ankles and in pet fur.
Apply Safer® Brand Yard & Garden Insect Killer in zones where pets and people frequent.
Japanese Beetle Grubs
June Beetle Larvae
May Beetle Grubs
May Beetle LarvaeWhite Grubs
Adult Green June Beetles are often confused with Japanese Beetles, but these beetles are much larger and mostly green. Adult Green June Beetles are an indication that their grubs may be infesting a lawn. Damage is indirect and caused by tunneling, which dries out soil and makes the soil spongy. Armadillos and skunks may also dig up lawns in search of these cream-colored grubs with orange-brown heads. These grubs don’t always have the distinct C-shape as other larval insects.
Mud Dauber Wasps
Before taking any action to address “bees” that may be infesting your yard, make sure you know the species of “bee” you’re encountering. Yellow Jackets are the most common ground-nesting nuisance stinging insect. Paper wasps are semi-aggressive and may make lawn areas near their nests unusable.
DO NOT KILL HONEYBEES, instead contact a professional bee keeper who may remove the bees for free.
Apply Safer® Brand Wasp & Hornet Killer to wasp, hornet and yellow jacket nests.
Japanese Beetle Larvae
Japanese Beetle Grubs are C-shaped larvae with well-developed legs. They are often about 1 inch long and have a white coloring. Found in the soil, they destroy roots of lawn grasses and attract skunks, crows and moles. Damage is apparent when patches of lawn become brown and spongy.
June Beetle Larvae
June Bug Grubs
June Bug Larvae
May Beetle Grubs
May Beetle Larvae
May Bug Grubs
May Bug Larvae
Though June Beetle Grubs are sometimes called White Grubs, their coloration varies from yellow to black and most are dark brown. Like most grubs, they are C-shaped. Lawn damage occurs as these grubs feed and tunnel through the soil, resulting in yellowed grass. Heavy infestations will cause lawn die-offs that allow the grass to be removed in large patches.
Candy Striped Leafhoppers
Southern Garden Leafhoppers
Western Potato Leafhoppers
Leafhoppers are rarely a problem on lawns, except when there’s a massive infestation. They will feed on all grass types, leaving them yellow or “bleached.” Leafhoppers are small, winged, wedge-shaped insects that look a little bit like a grasshopper. While they are usually green, yellow or gray, the candy striped leafhopper is has brilliant blue and orange patterns on its back.
Leafhoppers are very small, and measure only up to a ¼ inch long. It's their small size that makes them easy to ignore. Aside from grass, they may also feed on roses, potato plants, grape vines and apple trees. Some gardeners say their damage looks a lot like spider mites.
Apply Safer® Brand Insecticidal Soap & Pyrethrin Insect Killer to infested area to target this pest.
Crane Fly Larvae
Crane Fly Larvae are grub-like with no legs or apparent head and about 1 ½ inches long. They’re called leatherjackets because of their gray-brown coloring. Adult crane flies are easily mistaken for mosquitoes, but they don’t bite or carry diseases. Larvae damage lawns by eating roots and stems, leaving patches of dead grass.
Northern Mole Crickets
Tawny Mole Crickets
A common underground lawn pest in the southeastern U.S., they may consume grass and their roots while burrowing through the soil. Damage is evident by raised burrows and dead grass. Mole Crickets are a light brown, measure up to 1 ¼ inches long and have spade-like front legs.
Apply beneficial nematodes, available from local garden centers, to lawn areas where these pests are active.
Asian Tiger Mosquitoes
Yellow Fever Mosquitoes
Mosquitoes aren’t a lawn damaging insect, but their presence can make a lawn unusable. Aside from their itchy bites, they can also transmit a number of diseases to humans.
Lawn Moth Caterpillars
Lawn Moth Larvae
Areas of lawn are left brown or completely bare since sod webworms eat foliage only, not roots. Sod webworms are about ¾ of an inch long and have cream-colored bodies with a double-row of spots on their backs. Small bristles sprout from the spots.
Eastern North American Land Snail
Snails and slugs are rarely a pest to lawns, but they often appear in lawns at night to breed or travel to a food source. Snails have a shell and slugs do not. These mollusks often leave a slimy, silvery trail across sidewalks, porches and on leaves.
American Dog Ticks
Brown Dog Ticks
Gulf Coast Ticks
Lone Star Ticks
Pacific Coast Ticks
Rocky Mountain Wood Ticks
Ticks are small parasitic arachnids that swell up as they feed on the blood of their hosts. As they feed, their body fills with blood and they become more visible to the naked eye.
While ticks are not a threat to lawn health, their presence can pose risks to people and pets using the lawn.
Several afflictions, including Lyme disease, are transmitted through tick bites. As a result, they are considered a major pest.
It's highly advised to thoroughly check yourself, your family and your pets each day for ticks.
Asiatic Garden Beetle Grubs
European Chafer Grubs
Green June Beetle Grubs*
Japanese Beetle Grubs*
June Beetle Grubs*
May Beetle Grubs*
Masked Chafer Grubs*
Oriental Beetle Grubs
*See individual entries for Chafer/Masked Chafer Grubs, Green June Beetle Grubs, Japanese Beetle Grubs, May/June Bug Grubs.
“White Grub” is a catchall name for a variety of mostly indistinguishable larval forms of a variety of beetles. These grubs are C-shaped, white or cream colored and vary in length from 3/8 to 1½ inches long. White grub infestations create large patches of brown grass after they destroy the roots of grass. The resulting patches become detached from sod and literally can be rolled up like a carpet.
You can check for any of these grubs by digging up a one-foot square patch of unhealthy-looking lawn and counting the grubs you find. If you find more than five, you need to take action.
Want to Know Even More About Safer® Brand?
Safer® Brand is your supplier of OMRI Listed® products to manage lawn and garden pests. To learn more about us, join the Safer® Brand Community on Facebook and subscribe to our E-Newsletter, where you can learn more about our OMRI Listed® products and explore new articles on organic living.
Have a question on how to apply one of our outdoor pest control products? Reach out to our dedicated Consumer Care Team at 855-7-ORGANIC.