How to Identify Common Lawn Pests

Property Resources

How to Identify Common Lawn Pests

Posted by All Metro Service Companies LLC
3 years ago | May 15, 2021

Common lawn pests can really do a number on your turfgrass. They can leave it yellow and dead instead of lush and green. Getting rid of these pests requires figuring out what pests you have since not all treatments kill all lawn pests. Below, we’ve listed some of the most common lawn pests that can damage your lawn.

White Grubs
Common Lawn Pests - White Grubs

Close up of white grubs burrowing into the soil. These specific white grubs are the larva of the May/June Beetle.

White grubs are the larvae of several kinds of scarab beetles. These grubs are C-shaped, with a dark color head, six legs under the head, and a darker color at the end of the abdomen. White grubs eat the roots of turfgrass, killing it. There are several types of adult beetles in Minneapolis/St. Paul that lay their eggs in turfgrass and produce these grubs. The adult beetles feed on ornamental trees and shrub foliage. These beetles are:

  • May/June Beetles (Phyllophaga species) are an inch long and a chestnut brown color. Their grubs have brown heads and live for three years on the lawn. They grow up to 1 inch long before they turn into beetles.
  • Northern Masked Chafers (Cyclocephala Borealis) are about ½ inches in length. They are shiny brown with a darker mask across the head and darker spots on each side of the thorax (shoulder). The adults overwinter in the ground and emerge in late June. They lay eggs and the grubs do the most damage late in the summer. The adults are nocturnal and do not feed.
  • Black Turfgrass Ataenius (Ataenius Spretulus) is a small (1/5th inch) black scarab beetle. It is common around turf that is heavily watered and fertilized, such as golf courses. The larvae are very small, about ¼ inch. In late May or early June, the adults lay eggs in thatch. The larvae do the most damage in late July or early August. Eliminating as much thatch as possible helps keep these beetles in check.
  • Aphodius Beetles (Aphodius Granarius) live lives just like the black turfgrass Ataenius.
  • Japanese Beetles (Popillia Japonica) are an exotic species that is about 7/16 inches long. It has a dark metallic green head and tan wing covers. It also has 5 white patches of short hairs along each side of the dorsal abdomen. If those are missing, it is a False Japanese Beetle and not a threat to your grass. The adults love to feed on roses, but the larvae feed on the roots of grasses.

All of these white grubs leave irregular patches of yellowed and dead grass. Examine a square foot of lawn on the edge of the patches. If you pull on the grass, the tops will come off without any roots. You should be able to roll the turf up like a carpet.


Bluegrass Billbug (Sphenophorous Parvulus)
A closer look at the Bluegrass Billbug.

A closer look at the Bluegrass Billbug.

Bluegrass Billbugs are a type of weevils that are 1/4th inch long, gray to black, and have a long snout. In the spring, they lay eggs in the grass sheeves. When the eggs mature, the larvae eat the inside of the grass stems, then the grassroots. They complete feeding in late July then pupate in the soil. In August they emerge as adults to overwinter in protected areas.

The larvae create irregular patches in the lawn that yellow then turns brown. If you pull at the edges of the patches, you can pull up the grass with no roots.


Armyworms (Pseudaletia Unipunctata) and Fall Armyworm (Spodoptera Frugiperda)
Close-up image of a Fall Armyworm. Image provided by Texas Agrilife Extension.

Close-up image of a Fall Armyworm. Image provided by Texas Agrilife Extension.

Armyworms are the larvae of armyworm moths. Armyworms eat many types of grass, including small grains and corn. They do not usually bother turf grass. Armyworms are dull yellow to gray with stripes on the sides. Fall armyworms are monochrome, with gray bodies with a black stripe on the top and both sides. They have four black spots on each segment of their body. Both grow to 1 ½-2 inches long.

Armyworms tend to come into Minnesota from warmer areas on the south wind. They are usually kept in control by natural predators. They are more likely to be a problem during a drought. When eating, they mow down the plants by eating everything above soil level.


Variegated cutworm. Photo: Bruce Potter and courtesy of The University of MN

Variegated cutworm. Photo: Bruce Potter and courtesy of The University of MN

There are several species of cutworms to watch out for: Cutworms ( Noctuidae Lepidoptera) Black Cutworm (Agrotis Ipsilon), Bronze Cutworm (Nephelodes Minians), Variegated Cutworm (Peridroma Saucia). Cutworms are roughly 1 ½ inches long. The Variegated Cutworm is varied from brown to gray. The Black Cutworm is light gray below with darker gray above and has black spots along its side. The Bronze Cutworm is a mottled burgundy brown. All of these Cutworms will curl up in a ball when they are disturbed.

These nocturnal larvae feed on the grass blades and cut grass blades off at the soil. During the day they hide in soil or under debris. These Cutworms can have 1-3 generations a year. They are often found on golf courses on the green when it is surrounded by dense rough.


Sod Webworms (Crambus species and Parapediasia species)
A webworm nest on a tree filled with larvae.

A webworm nest on a tree filled with larvae.

Sod Webworm adults are light-colored moths that make short erratic flights over turf and are attracted to outdoor lights. When at rest, they fold their wings up completely to look narrow and have an elongated snout. The larvae are dirty white to light brown with darker spots. They are about ¾ inch long with a blackhead.

The larvae eat grass blades. Some species eat crowns or roots too. During the day they hide in their silk-lined tunnels above or slightly into the soil. The Sod Webworm has two generations a year in Minnesota – this means they do damage in June and again in August. The second generation of Webworms can seriously damage large areas of sod, but generally, extreme damage is rare.


Chinch Bugs (Blissus species)
Chinch bugs

The life cycle of a chinch bug. Photo courtesy of Ohio State University.

Chinch Bugs are rare in turf in Minnesota. Make sure this is really what is eating your lawn before making an attempt to treat the lawn. Chinch Bugs are dark-colored with white wings in the front that has a pair of black triangles halfway down on the wings.

Chinch Bugs are sapsuckers, but there has to be a population of 20-25 sq. ft. to be a problem. In that case, you will find patches of grass that are yellow which will eventually turn brown.


Leafhoppers (Cicadellidae sps.)
A close-up image of a Green Leafhopper, aka Cicadella.

A close-up image of a Green Leafhopper, aka Cicadella.

Leafhoppers are winged insects that are usually green or gray, about 1/4th inches long, and narrow. They show up in large numbers from southern areas. In large swarms, when you wave your hand, they will rise like a cloud. Leafhoppers lay their egg in leaf tissue. Both the larvae and the adults suck the sap out of the tissue.

Leafhoppers leave behind irregular patches of grass with yellowed or bleached out areas. They are particularly devastating to new lawns, but rarely do much damage to established lawns.


Greenbugs (Schizaphis Graminum)
Greenbugs (aka Aphids) on a plant.

Greenbugs (aka Aphids) on a plant.

Greenbugs are aphids. They are small and usually yellow or green. Aphids are carried into Minnesota by a southern wind and can appear suddenly. They are usually first found in July and August. Bluegrass is one of their favorite foods.

Greenbugs are sapsuckers, and their damage usually shows up as pale grass that may be streaked with yellow. Such damage is almost always near the shade of a tree or shrub. Control needs to start when Greenbugs first show up as they reproduce quickly.


Get Rid of Lawn Bugs

In Minnesota, there are many varieties of common lawn pests and insects. They all require many different strategies to eliminate them. Rather than try to identify and eliminate what is eating your lawn, call All Metro Service Companies. We can eliminate your present pest problems and prevent new ones. When you call, our licensed technician will come out to your property and inspect it for common lawn pests. He will then formulate a plan to eliminate the pests and inform you of what he found and how he proposes to eliminate them. We will come out at specified intervals to make sure you do not have any pest problems and to treat the site with preventatives. Call All Metro Service Companies today at (763) 789-4788 today and get your lawn back!

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