Monitor your lawn for mole crickets

Published: Thursday, July 18, 2013 at 09:42 AM.

Mole crickets damage turf grass in several ways.  They tunnel through the soil near the surface.  This tunneling action loosens the soil so that the grass is often uprooted and dies due to desiccation of the root system.  Both species of mole crickets damage grass roots causing thinning out of the turf and, eventually, completely bare soil.

Mole crickets live in the soil and feed on plant roots.  Their front legs are short and stout well adapted for tunneling.  Their velvety skin is light brown, and the adults, which reach a length of about one-and-a-half inches, have prominent wings folded over their backs.

Each spring, mole crickets lay eggs in the soil.  The nymphs, which hatch in about two weeks, look like the adults, except they’re smaller and lack fully developed wings.  These nymphs mature very gradually, reaching adulthood the following spring.  Thus, there is only one generation per year.

Although mole crickets live mostly below ground, the adults are readily attracted to lights especially in the spring, and throughout the summer.  At these times, they’re commonly found under street lamps, electric signs, and similar illumination.

Mole crickets are most active at night, especially after a rain or irrigation, and when the temperature is about 70 degrees Fahrenheit.  Under these conditions, they make burrows in the upper inch or two of the soil.  Occasionally, they’ll partially emerge to gather bits of food.  These surface burrows, which range from about one/eight to three/quarters of an inch in diameter, look like miniature mole runs.  This burrowing loosens the soil, causing plants to dry out.  However, the most serious damage is caused by the cricket feeding on the roots of lawn grass.

Inspect for mole crickets soap flush is an effective method for surveying mole cricket populations, especially in the late spring and early summer when the crickets are small and tunneling activity is not readily evident.  Mix 1.5 fluid ounces of liquid dishwashing soap in two gallons of water and apply with a sprinkling can to four square feet of turf in several areas.  If an average of two to four mole crickets appears on the surface within three minutes, then a treatment is probably needed.

To insure even pesticide coverage, it’s best to treat no more than 500 square feet at a time.   Mark off the area to be covered, and apply half the recommended amount evenly, back and forth in one direction.  Then, turn at right angles and apply the rest.  After spraying, irrigate for about 60 minutes.  Do not water after applying baits.

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