Wednesday, September 12

Wednesday Garden Pic: Mole Cricket Hunting


I suppose you've been waiting with baited breath to see a photo of what mole crickets can do to a lawn?

 Mole crickets turn a lawn to dirt because they eat the roots of grass, particularly the centipede & St.Augustine grasses that frequent southern lawns.
Two pictures below:
The damaged area as it looked after a cricket infestation a couple years ago and a picture of the same area from the year before they I had such a terrible problem.

What mole cricket damage looks like. Reduces grass to dirt.
Side view of same exact area last year full of grass.

I think there was a double whammy that effected this particular area: first too much rain, so maybe some mildew weakened the grass, then secondly, a rash of mole crickets and still too much rain for me to be able to really do anything about it.
Mole crickets tunnel just below the surface of the soil leaving a "trail" of a raised tunnel line of dirt that is easily recognized in any area of exposed soil.

A Quick Solution:

Looking up what to do about the problem, I learned that
a quick stop-gap cure is to buy a cheap bottle of lemon dish detergent (and it must be lemon scented), squirt a bit into a bucket, fill with water, then dump the sudsy water onto the trail areas.
(Since mature insects are hard for pesticides to kill, this may be a workable second option to get them. I just wear latex gloves and snatch the buggers up as they pop-out, then kill them.)

Mole crickets can't stand the lemony water and it drives them out of the ground. 
Sometimes it takes a couple dumps of water. The water reveals entry/exit holes by bubbling into them and I usually give those particular attention with a second dose.
Usually the crickets pop up out of a tunnel hole within a couple minutes. 
The dish detergent is only a stop gap measure and as soon as I could, I bought a bag of Bug-B-Gone comprehensive lawn insecticide to put down. Unfortunately, the damage was done.

What a mole cricket looks like:
About this size or slight bigger. Ugly as sin.
Mole Cricket
Can the damage be repaired?
Yes, with time and lots of TLC.
 I have bags of topsoil on hand to resurface the area and plenty of flower beds with encroaching grass I can edge up for planting fresh grass starts. 

(Or you can buy a tray of grass plugs at a local garden shop.)
Luckily, Centipede & St. Augustine type grasses are both forgiving and voracious.
 First, though, I had to eliminate finding a fresh tunnel or two every day, otherwise putting in fresh grass won't help and I was still finding 4 or 5 a water dump.
(When I planted my new sod plugs I added a sprinkle of Bug-Be-Gone in the hole before planting each one.)

Epilogue:
I recently learned that the best treatment time for applying a lawn pesticide for mole crickets along the Gulf Coast is mid-June to mid-July, when it will be most effective at killing the seasons young crickets spawned during spring.
Apparently, the pesticides work best on immature insects.

****
2014 Update: A local pest control guy told my friend that the granular pesticide is most effective on mole crickets when watered in with a little dish soap in your feeder that you attach to a hose. The soap drives the insects up to the level where the pesticide has penetrated and helps kill them. He recommended Ivory.
*****
I've used a feeder with lemon dish soap before, because it's a good, non-toxic way to treat a lawn. Every ground insect, good and bad, hates it. You only need about 1/2 inch of dish liquid in the sprayer-feeder, fill it with water, attach  a hose and water away. There won't be much in the way of suds at all and I've never seen it harm the grass.
 Unlike spot-treating with a bucket, which usually leaves a pile of foam.
*****
[May 2014 update: Lowe's sells a solar powered sonic device  for repelling common moles & gophers that emits a sound into the ground every few minutes. My friend purchased one because a neighbor told her they found it also repelled mole crickets--whether that's true or not, I don't know, but the device costs less then $20 and is good for a wide area.  I have regular moles, too, so it couldn't hurt.]
***** In spring along the Gulf, female mole crickets create "mole hills" as they pop out to call a mate during the night, so if you have them, you'll see small 1/2 size holes surrounded by dirt.
Also, if you have exposed soil because they've been devouring your grass roots, you can see their little tunnel trails.

A good test to see how bad you're infested is to dump a bucket of lemon detergent water on such likely areas of tunneling or hills. Wait a few seconds and see if any pop out. According to what I read, "if more then 3 pop out from one location where you poured your soap water, you have an infestation."

Hope this helps & good luck!

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