The mole cricket is commonly considered one of the most challenging insect pests Northwest Florida residents struggle to control.
Like its name suggests, these specialized insects have large, shovel-like front claws that allow them to quickly and easily “swim” through the soil underneath turfgrass where they cause damage in two ways:
- Their burrowing pushes grass roots up, removing them from sources of water and nutrients
- They feed directly on the roots, destroying them
As a result, tiny, unsightly trails will appear throughout the soil in affected areas, much like miniature mole tunnels. The ground where they are most active may feel spongy because of the number of tunnels they’ve dug beneath the surface.
These tunnels are typically not visible at the start of an infestation, but they will become more visible as the turfgrass in the affected areas dries up and eventually dies, exposing the trails crisscrossing the surface of the soil.
While all Florida grass types can be at risk, St. Augustine grass may be more resistant to mole cricket attacks because of the dense growth pattern of its root system. Bermuda grass and Centipede grass, on the other hand, are more susceptible and may show damage signs quickly.
“What can I do if mole crickets are attacking my lawn?”
If you see these classic mole cricket damage signs, it’s important to act fast and decisively. A relatively small number of crickets can do significant damage over the course of their year-long generation.
While an observant homeowner may see evidence of mole crickets year round, the heaviest damage will become evident from late August to early October.
Controlling mole crickets can involve a few different strategies:
- Making your lawn as inhospitable as possible
- Introducing biological controls to the environment
- Using pesticides responsibly
All three of these strategies can help control mole cricket populations in your Pensacola lawn. Here’s how they work:
Making your lawn inhospitable to mole crickets
One of the controllable factors that can make your lawn particularly attractive to mole crickets is if your soil is always moist. Wet soil is easier for them to burrow through, so they thrive in wet conditions.
Rather than having a consistently wet lawn, the best way to water your lawn effectively is to provide no more than 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch of water (a thorough soaking that takes around an hour for most sprinkler systems) every 2-3 days, adjusted for significant rainfall.
Any more than that, the soil is likely too wet, which attracts mole crickets and creates the right environment for a number of other dangerous invaders like molds and fungus.
Introducing biological controls to the environment
Biological controls are beneficial species of plants and/or animals that naturally control a pest species like the mole cricket.
In this case, the “silver bullet” of biocontrols is the Larra Bicolor Wasp.
This natural enemy of the mole cricket is a non-aggressive wasp species that won’t harm humans or other animals unless trapped (like in your hand, for instance.) They are solitary wasps, so there’s no chance of accidentally stumbling on a nest.
Larra Bicolor wasps are not native to northwestern Florida, but they’ve been introduced to the area and are quite prevalent. The best way to make sure they decide to make your lawn home is to plant the two wildflowers they like the best: Shrubby False Buttonweed and Partridge Pea.
Although these are weeds and you will want to keep them controlled, they can be kept out of the way and in fairly small numbers, while still attracting sufficient wasps to the area to keep mole crickets from thriving in your yard.
Using pesticides responsibly
If alternative mole cricket control options have been used, and the problem still persists, it’s usually best to look into applying appropriate pesticides.
Although pesticides can be very effective against mole crickets, they can also affect the environment and lawn if they are misused. We strongly recommend working with a professional lawn care company to ensure the right products are applied correctly to your lawn to both control pests and keep your lawn safe.
Remember to keep an eye out for bare patches of soil with those distinctive tiny tunneling trails, especially in the late summer and early fall. As always, we welcome you to contact our Pensacola lawn maintenance company with any questions.