Stopping Insect Damage – Using Insect Identification and Lawn Pest Control

Insect damage to your lawn is preventable. You need to recognize the signs of their damage because it can take on many forms. It is very often mistaken for other problems (lawn disease or drought).

  • Chewed grass blades
  • Damage at the crown of the lawn (where the grass blade meets the soil)
  • Brown patches of grass
  • Loose grass (the root system that anchors the grass to the soil is compromised)


There are many types of bugs that live in and near your lawn. The majority are harmless and beneficial to your lawn. Very few will cause destructive insect damage to your lawn.

Your best lawn pest control is the ability to identify harmful bugs that cause insect damage and understanding what conditions they like best.

  • Is your climate warm and dry or is it cool and moist?
  • How much shade or sunlight does your lawn get?
  • Is your lawn flat or slopping?
  • What soil type do you have?

All of these questions factor into the types of bugs that live in and around your lawn.

Insect Identification – How are They Classified?

Lawn pests can be classified into 3 categories:

How to Know You Need to Practice Lawn Pest Control

Insect damage looks a lot like other lawn problems (lawn disease and drought).

You should inspect your grass regularly. Don’t just do a peripheral inspection. Actually, get down on your hands and knees and really look for evidence of insects. You will want to inspect the grass blades themselves, the area where the grass meets the soil (including the thatch layer) and under the soil.

Lawn pests do not live in dead patches of turf. Instead you will find them in live patches of grass near damaged areas.

Begin your inspection in areas of turf that lawn pests prefer:

  • The edge of your lawn
  • In shady areas
  • In wet areas
  • Areas adjacent to damaged turf (grass is sparse, discolored or where the turf is loose).

It is important for you to make a correct diagnosis. This will enable you to research the lawn pest and learn when and how to rid your grass of it before you have severe insect damage.

It is also important to determine how many bugs are in a specific area of your lawn. A few bugs in an area are not going to damage your lawn. It is when they there in large numbers that the insect damage begins.

There are several tests that you can use to determine if you have harmful insects living in your lawn as well as the level of threat that exists in your particular situation.

Flotation Test

The flotation test is good to determine if you have leaf feeding bugs living in your lawn such as chinch bugs.

  • Cut off both ends out of a coffee can
  • Stand the coffee can up in the soil
  • Fill the can with water

If you have chinch bugs they will float to the top of the can. Test a few areas to see if they are throughout your lawn or contained to one area. If 2-3 chinch bugs come floating to the top of the can per test, you have a problem and you need to take quick action before they cause insect damage to your lawn.

Irritation Test

The irritation test is used to determine if you have sod webworm, army worm or cut worm larvae living in your lawn.

  • Mix in a container
  • One gallon of water
  • One tablespoon of dishwashing soap
  • Sprinkle the soapy water over a one square foot section of your lawn (damaged areas and near damaged areas)
  • Wait up to 10 minutes
  • Conduct test in several areas of your lawn

If you have any of these lawn pests you will know after this test. If you have eight or more present in one square foot area it is time to take action before they cause insect damage.

Turf Removal Test

This test is used to determine if you have lawn grubs.

  • Cut out one square foot of turf
  • Check the top-soil (4 – 6 inches deep)

If you have lawn grubs you will see them. If there are 5 or more lawn grubs present in the section you are testing, it is time to take action before they cause insect damage.

How to Rid Tour Yard of Lawn Pests

There are several ways that you can rid your lawn of yard pests before they cause severe insect damage. The idea is to limit the amount of destruction caused by these harmful bugs.

  • Prevention – Proper Lawn Maintenance
  • Biological Pest Control
  • Botanical Pesticides
  • Insecticidal Soaps
  • Chemical Pesticides

Prevention – Proper Lawn Maintenance

Proper lawn maintenance (watering your lawn, fertilizing your lawn and mowing your lawn) help protect your lawn from harmful bug infestations. Aerate the thatch layer when it gets too thick. Bugs like to live in thick grass.

Use pest resistent grasses. Perennial ryegrass and fescue carry endophytes that help protect your lawn. These are nearly invisible fungi, that repel insects (green bugs, billbugs, army worms, cutworms and sod webworms.

Biological Pest Control

This type of pest control involves fighting one living organism with another. You want to increase the population of organisms that live in your lawn. When there are no more lawn pests to feed on, the biological products return to their natural levels in your soil.

Biological pest control products are typically more expensive than chemical pesticides. However, biological products are typically safer for you, your family, your pets and your lawn.

Beneficial Nemotodes – They attack the larvae of Japanese Beetles, cut worms and sod webworms when they are at the most dangerous stage for your lawn. Nemotodes are normally mixed with water and applied to wet lawns. Check the packaging for prime times to use in your area.

Botanical Pesticides

This type of lawn pest control is made from plant material. It is less harmful to us and our pets than it’s chemical counterpart.

The drawback of this lawn pest control is that it breaks down quickly. This means that it must come into contact with the lawn pest quickly. Botanical pesticides are not effective for lawn pests that live in the soil such as lawn grubs.

Insecticidal Soap

It is made from the salts of fatty acids. It will kill white grubs, chinch bugs, billbugs and sod webworms. It works best when it is mixed with water and applied to the grass with a sprayer.

Chemical Pesticides

This is the most common method of lawn pest control because it is a quick fix. When you use a chemical pesticide, you kill both the good and the harmful bugs in your lawn. Be sure your infestation is bad enough to warrant use of a chemical pesticide. Never use a chemical pesticide as a preventive measure, it doesn’t work.

The product you use to eliminate these lawn pests depends on what type of lawn pest is causing your problem. Before you purchase any product, read the label carefully.

Chemicals can be harmful to you, your family and your pets.

When you apply the chemical to your lawn, be sure to dress appropriately. Wear long sleeves, long pants, covered shoes and gloves. However, as with any chemical you have to be extremely careful.

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These are harmful insects to your lawn that live on the grass blades

Chinch Bugs

Chinch Bug

Billbugs

Greenbugs

greenbug

Leafhoppers

leafhopper

These are harmful insects to your lawn that live at the crown of the grass

Armyworms

armyworm

Cutworms

cutworm

Sod Webworms

Sod webworm

Lawn Ants

lawn ant

These are harmful insects to your lawn that live in the soil

Lawn Grub

lawn grub