What's Eating My Lawn? 3 of the Usual Insect Suspects in Northern Virginia

Posted On: July 18,2019 By: Todd Thomasson

When lawn insects make a meal out of your grass, it can be incredibly frustrating. After all, it’s a major barrier standing in your way to a great-looking lawn. 

These lawn destroying insects will ultimately wind up killing your grass if they’re not stopped in their tracks. Unfortunately, lawn pest damage often goes unnoticed until it becomes severe. If your grass is suddenly turning brown, you might be wondering whether your lawn has become an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Let’s look at the 3 main culprits that might be causing you problems so that you can answer the question of, “What’s eating my lawn?!”

1. Grubs

Grubs, which is the collective name for several species of beetles in the larval stage, are tiny white c-shaped pests that have the potential to do a tremendous amount of damage. That’s because these are bugs that eat grass roots.

Grub

Finding one or two grubs in your grass is no reason to panic. However, a large population of grubs can definitely do serious, sometimes irreversible, damage.

Beetles lay their eggs in the summer. Grubs are born in the soil and typically start feeding on the roots of your lawn around mid-August. Unfortunately, damage from these pests can occur rapidly.

How to Get Rid of Lawn Grubs

In terms of how to deal with this pest, prevention is the best solution. Preventative products work by taking care of young grubs as they hatch. Preventative grub control will keep your lawn protected all season. 

However, it’s important to note that the timing is essential to its success. Preventative products must be applied before grubs mature as it won’t work effectively on adult pests. 

If you’ve missed the timeline for a preventative product and are now dealing with a grub problem in late summer or early fall, a curative product will be needed. Curative grub control products are more costly, which is another reason why focusing on prevention is best.

Of course, any damage that has already been done will need to be addressed. Damaged grass areas will need to be seeded in the fall.

2. Chinch Bugs

Of the lawn destroying insects that might be eating your grass, chinch bugs are another one to watch out for. These pests have blackish gray bodies with fine hairs and white wings. However, since the adult is only about a ⅙ inch long, chances are, you won’t notice those details. What you are sure to notice is their damage (at least when it becomes severe enough).

chinch bug

Chinch bugs use their piercing mouthparts to suck the moisture out of your grass blades. Then, they inject their toxic saliva into the blades that will disrupt water movement within the grass, causing it to die.

Chinch bug damage often occurs in the heart of the summer when these insects are actively feeding. A chinch bug infestation may bring as many as 200 insects per square foot of turfgrass. Both young chinch bugs (called nymphs) and adults feed on grass, making them a serious problem. Unfortunately, the damage is not always noticed until it’s severe. The first sign of a chinch bug problem is usually yellowed grass, which occurs as these pests suck the plant fluids from it.

Oftentimes, it is damage that alerts homeowners to a potential chinch bug problem. If you have a lawn that is changing colors, lawn insects are certainly one potential culprit. 

Start by performing a visual inspection. This should be performed on the fringe of where the grass is still green because chinch bugs will move out once they’ve consumed an entire area. You’ll need to get down close to the grass and pull the thatch layer apart at various areas. Watch closely for movement for at least a half a minute.

Another way to scout chinch bugs is flooding a small area with a metal tube. This could even be a metal coffee can with the top and bottom removed. Insert this into the ground one or two inches deep and fill it with water. Chinch bugs will float to the top. Give it 10 minutes and then count the number of pests in order to determine a population density for your chinch bug problem.

How to Get Rid of Chinch Bugs

Removing excess thatch and having lawn aeration performed will help break up compacted soil and remove the favorable environment where chinch bugs prefer to live. However, if you’re already dealing with an infestation, then an application of a curative product will likely also be necessary.

3. Sod Webworms

Also referred to as “lawn moths,” sod webworms are another destructive lawn pest that might be causing you trouble. Adult sod webworms are dull-colored moths that can reach a ¾ inch in size. The adult is characterized by a pair of projections on its head, resembling a snout. However, it is the sod webworm larvae that you need to worry about.

sod webworm

Sod webworms overwinter as mature larvae in silken tunnels that they have constructed. They will begin feeding in the spring, at which time damage may not be noticeable. Sod webworm larvae feed at night on grass leaves and stems near the soil surface. 

The most serious damage generally occurs in July and August as the webworms grow (and the damage becomes more severe). Larval damage is often observed as brown patches up to the size of a baseball. These brown patches may include puncture holes where birds have searched for a webworm meal.

If you suspect sod webworm damage, examine your grass for their silken tunnels. You can also sample for the larvae by using a soap disclosing solution (soapy water) that irritates the body of the insect and then forces the insect to the surface of the turfgrass.

How to Get Rid of Sod Webworms 

If you have an infestation of sod webworms, then you’ll require a control product that will suppress larval populations while they are actively feeding. Going forward, using a preventative product each year (at the time when they are likely to feed) will keep these destructive lawn insects away.

Is it Lawn Insects or Something Else?

If you’re experiencing some of the problems we’ve described above with your lawn, then there’s certainly a good chance that you have lawn destroying insects on your property. Maybe you’ve even scouted the lawn, as we’ve explained how to do, and you’ve spotted these pests with your own eyes.

Even so, it’s important that we mention that there are sometimes more than one issue at play. While you certainly might have a lawn insect problem, you might also have something else going on at the same time. And if you haven’t scouted these insects, you could potentially have something else (entirely different) happening.

For instance, a lawn that is changing colors and browning could also be experiencing disease or drought. The point is, a proper diagnosis is really important when it comes to the right course of treatment.

This is where regular visits from a lawn care professional can pay off. A lawn care professional is going to be able to spot a problem in its early stages—before it becomes serious. And they’re also going to know whether it is, in fact, a lawn insect problem or something else. They’ll also know the best course of treatment for whatever problem (or problems) you might be dealing with. 

That should give you peace of mind that you’re taken care of. It takes the burden off of you to figure out what’s going on and puts it in the hands of a professional—who will know the best course of action for any problems that arise.

Hiring the Best Lawn Care Company in Ashburn, Aldie, or Leesburg, VA

Rock Water Farm lawn care truck in Ashburn, VAOf course, to truly be able to get go of your worries, you need to hire a lawn care professional that you trust. By doing so, you can feel confident that they know what your lawn needs any time that there’s a problem. When choosing the best professional for your lawn, you’re able to also hand over all of your worries and stresses—letting them take over.

At Rock Water Farm, that’s exactly what we offer our customers. We take over their lawn care needs so that they no longer have to worry. That gives homeowners peace of mind knowing that their lawn is in good hands and if a problem does arise, it will be dealt with swiftly and appropriately. 

With a professional eye on your property, you can feel confident that your lawn is being protected. That means that instead of becoming a 24/7 buffet for lawn insects, they’ll be stopped before they get the chance to feast on your precious lawn. 

If you’re ready to protect your lawn from destructive lawn pests at your Ashburn, Aldie, or Leesburg, VA home, talk to an expert, choose a solution that rocks, and get ready to be completely satisfied with your great results.

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Image sources: grub, chinch bug, sod webworm

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Todd Thomasson

Written by Todd Thomasson

Todd Thomasson, founded Rock Water Farm Landscapes & Hardscapes in 2005. Having grown up with hard working parent role models and a strong work ethic, Todd put his Landscape & Turf Management degree from Virginia Tech into action as the lead stone mason and landscape designer for the new company. Over the years, the responsibility and opportunity of running this company has been shared with other members of the Rock Water Farm team, launching one of the leading property maintenance companies in Loudoun County. Todd is still rooted in his passion for design/build projects and continues to run the company, working with clients to design, build and maintain perfect outdoor spaces with his team.