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.
Baits are most effective when the fast-growing nymphs need a lot of food from late June through September. The sooner baits are applied after damage is noticed, the more effective they’ll be. Baits may be applied by hand, but be sure to wear rubber gloves. For sprays, a garden hose attachment applicator will do the job, one that requires 15 to 2- gallons of water passing, through the hose to empty a quart jar, or you can use a pressurized pump-up sprayer, make sure water/chemical ration are correct and the sprayer has been calibrated. Regardless of whether you use a spray or bait, a second application in two weeks will provide better control.
For specific pesticide recommendation, check with your garden center, or Gulf County Extension Service @ 639-3200 or visit our website: http://gulf.ifas.ufl.edu or www.http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu and see Publication EENY 235.