Well, with warm spring temperatures arriving so do the mole cricket activity. These six-legged alien-like critters burrow up from the ground and crawl across the landscape. I’m one of the unlucky ones, so to speak. I have turned on my floodlights on a warm spring night to witness what appeared to be my lawn moving. Nope, no illusion, just mole crickets getting their exercise. They are harmless to us, as humans, but they could have a devastating effect on your lawn, pasture or garden.
Three non-native mole cricket species exist in Florida, including tawny, southern and shortwinged. The skin of the insect is light brown and adults usually reach approximately one and a half inches in length. They do have wings, which fold over their back. Mole Crickets live in soil and their favorite food is plant roots, especially turfgrass roots.
Mole crickets are excellent at tunneling. The tunneling has a negative effect on lawns as it loosens soil and causes grass roots to break away from the soil, leading to grass dying through root system desiccation. Mole crickets can weave a myriad of routes under a lawn and can tunnel more than 20 feet in a night.
During the spring season, mole crickets lay their eggs in the soil. Nymphs hatch after two weeks. The nymphs closely resemble the adult in appearance, but lack developed wings. Nymphs slowly mature and conclude their life cycle the following spring, therefore there is only one generation per year.
Mole crickets are most active at night, especially in the warmer months. They are attracted to light, so it’s common to see them around streetlamps, security lights and close to carports.
Mole crickets can be controlled by a number of insecticide sprays and baits, but application should be at night and when the temperature reaches at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Baits are most effective from June through September, when fast growing nymphs need more food.
These applications work the best when applied after rainfall, when soil moisture is optimum. Soil moisture assists in penetration of both sprays and bait. However, do not water your lawn immediately after applying the treatment.
Evidence suggests through new research that biological control options, like the parasitoid known as the Larra bicolor wasp, may be more effective than pesticides. Host plants for the parasitoid, such as "shrubby false buttonweed" (Spermacoce verticillate) and "partridge pea” (Chamaecrista fasciculata) are far more economical to maintain than the cost of pesticide applications. These are actually wildflowers, which require minimal maintenance by growing without fertilizer, irrigation or other assistance.
If you suspect mole crickets in your lawn, there is a screening method to detect activity known as the 2 method. This method calls for mixing 2 gallons of water with 2 ounces of dish detergent. Apply mixture to a 2 x 2 feet area that you suspect. Observe the area for 2 minutes. Mole crickets will emerge to the surface of the lawn, if present.
It’s important to note when mole crickets appear in a lawn, so do moles. Moles crickets are a favorite menu item of the mole. Therefore, if you control the mole cricket population in your lawn, the less likely you’ll have a mole problem.
For more information, contact Gulf County Extension at 639-3200 or email at email@example.com.
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Supporting information for this article can be found in the UF/IFAS EDIS publication, “Mole Cricket IPM Guide for Florida”, by C. R. Kerr, N. C. Leppla, E. A. Buss, and J. H. Frank: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/IN/IN102100.pdf and the UF/IFAS website narrative by Georgia Gelmis: http://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/lawn-and-garden/mole-crickets/.
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