Richmond is blessed with mild winters and four mellow seasons that make enjoying the outdoors possible for most of the year. Of course, the lack of hard freezes and the green environment are an open invitation to all backyard pests. Many critters can compromise your lawn, but some are more insidious than others. The following is a guide to the worst backyard pests in Richmond and how to manage them.
True to their name, these pests will feed in large numbers on all varieties of turf, moving in waves like an army, under cover of night. These caterpillars are most prevalent after a cool, wet spring when gray moths lay their eggs after the sun goes down. Resist the urge to apply chemical pesticides right away: your first line of defense is natural predators. A pheromone trap can track the arrival of moths, at which point you should begin inspecting your grass for signs of eggs and worms. Releasing beneficial nematodes can help to control any outbreaks. Applying BT (a natural caterpillar control) to the lawn will also help nip any infestation in the bud.
An accidental import from South America, fire ants know how to put an end to relaxing times in the yard. They’ll bite and sting anything that imposes on their mounds. Their colonies damage yards and wreak havoc on ecosystems. Combatting fire ants is a pastime for many Southerners, but if you control them early, you can avoid making a lifestyle out of ant control. The two-step method is the most effective approach to ridding your lawn of this horrendous pest. You start by spreading a bait insecticide over your entire yard in the fall. You then treat the individual mounds with a granule or dust insecticide.
Chinch bugs are the bane of Kentucky bluegrass, bentgrass, Bermudagrass, perennial ryegrass, and Zoysiagrass. They feed on all these grass types. They’re among the worst backyard pests in Richmond in hot, dry areas with a thick layer of thatch. Patches of grass will turn yellow and then brown in the heat of the sun. The best defense against chinch bugs? A healthy lawn, mowed to the recommended height, aerated, and properly watered and fertilized. You can treat small infestations with insecticidal soap, but larger issues need a dose of an organic or chemical insecticide.
Grubs and Beetles
When brown spots begin to appear on an otherwise healthy lawn, it’s time to start looking for grubs. To diagnose a grub issue, find a piece of affected turf and try to lift it up. If it rolls up easily and lacks roots, then you know grubs are to blame. If you prefer taking a nontoxic approach to lawn care, you can use milky spore, nematodes, or insecticidal soap to kill the grubs in the soil. If your lawn is healthy, grubs will be less able to find purchase and take root. Start looking for the grubs in the spring, before they have time to multiply. Mow consistently and make sure you irrigate the right amount.
If you find you have any of these pests invading your lawn, early detection is the best road to successfully wiping them out. Once an infestation is going full-bore, it’s much harder to get the upper hand. So, pay close attention to your turf and keep your Richmond yard healthy to stay a step ahead in the pest prevention game.
Have more questions about lawn care and landscaping? Visit our Richmond, Va., lawn care page for more guides and additional information.