You’ve worked hard and invested time and money to have a beautiful lawn and garden. The last thing you want to see is damage caused by annoying backyard pests. Here are a few of the worst in Cincinnati, along with some tips on how to control them.
Billbugs are grayish-black and have a snout or “bill” on their forehead. Adults live in the thatch layer of your lawn and can do some damage, but the larvae are far worse. Adult females lay their eggs in lawns in June. Within a few weeks, the eggs hatch and the larvae begin feasting on the grass as they move to the soil. You’ll start to see the damage in July or August, with discolored grass and brown patches. You also can easily pull up the grass in infested areas.
Prevention can start with varieties of billbug-resistant turf. You can use insecticides to kill the adults in May before they lay their eggs. Billbugs are harder to control when they reach the larval stage, but some newer insecticides have proven effective.
Not only do chinch bugs eat your grass; they inject it with their toxic saliva which kills it. The damage shows up as yellow patches in your lawn that eventually turn brown. Chinch bugs love dry grass, so watering your lawn properly can help keep them away. Keeping your grass longer can also help, as can aerating in the spring.
These pests annoy you, your pets, and even the squirrels in your yard. Fleas are most active in the summer and can inflict painful bites. Mowing the lawn and getting rid of tall overgrown weeds where fleas like to live can help. You can spray pesticide, but for a nontoxic alternative try nematodes. These small wormlike critters eat fleas in their pupae, larvae and pre-adult forms.
Mosquitoes can make a backyard barbecue truly miserable. They’re annoying and often deadly since they can also spread disease. Females need water sources to lay their eggs, so one way to control them is to remove standing water from your property. Citronella candles, yellow light bulbs and insect repellent can also help. You can also try mosquito repelling plants such as chrysanthemums, basil, lavender, and marigolds.
This pest does its damage in its larval or caterpillar stage. You’ll first notice lawn damage in the spring when larvae start eating the grass. As the larvae get larger you’ll start noticing larger brown spots in your lawn, often near driveways and curbs. Check for sod webworms by digging in the thatch layer, looking for their silk-lined tunnels. To get rid of them, you need to get rid of the larvae, not the adult moths. If you’re using a pesticide, choose one labeled for effectiveness against them. The larvae feed at night so it’s best to spray in the late afternoon.
White grubs are the larval stage of several types of beetles, including Japanese and chafer beetles. They attack the roots of your grass, which causes yellow then brown patches. The turf becomes spongy and rolls back like carpet because the roots are gone. Adult females lay their eggs in mid-July, and the larvae can start feeding in August. They move deeper into the soil to survive the winter, move back to the surface in spring to pupate into adults. Then the cycle begins again. Pesticides can help get rid of them from July to mid-September, but you should only treat the affected area and not your entire lawn. Natural alternatives include nematodes (see above) or milky spore.
Maintaining a healthy lawn is one of the best ways to prevent insect infestation. If you’re replacing or planting new grass, consider perennial ryegrass. This variety stands up well to kids and pets and contains endophytes, a fungus that repels ground-feeding insects. It won’t get rid of all the bugs but will help control the worst backyard pests in Cincinnati.
Looking to learn more about lawn care and gardening in Cincinnati? Visit our Cincinnati Lawn Care page.