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6 Pests That Can Ruin Your Lawn and How to Regain the Upper Hand

Bugs and funguses can be a problem any time of year, but they really thrive in the heat and humidity of summer. Many of them want to make your lawn their feeding and breeding grounds. Unfortunately, if their numbers get out of control, they can quickly do serious damage.

There’s no way to keep your yard completely free of pests, but learning to recognize the signs that trouble is brewing is the most effective way to stay a step ahead of them.

Discouraging and Detecting Fungal Diseases

Funguses love moisture. If you’re in the habit of watering late in the day or at night, when moisture is slow to evaporate, you’re increasing the chances of a fungal disease. It’s always best to water in the morning. This allows water to make its way to the grass roots where it’s needed, while the sun dries up the excess moisture that clings to the grass blades.

Along with watering wisely, keep an eye out for grass discoloration, which is how three fungal diseases common in Atlanta-area lawns typically present themselves.

Brown Patch: This fungal disease, also known as large patch, presents as patches of dead (thus brown) grass blades that still retain some green where the blade emerges from the soil. It usually starts out as small spots and quickly grows into large patches. If you look at the lawn from above, like a second-story window, you’ll notice the patches have a donut shape: a ring of brown grass with a circle of green in the center.

Dollar Spot: Named for the spots it causes, which start out about the size of a silver dollar, this disease can spread quickly, especially in Bermuda grass. The telltale sign of dollar spot is straw-colored grass tips. One of your best defenses against the disease is keeping your lawn well-watered, remembering that moisture in the soil is good and moisture on the grass itself isn’t.

Zoysia Patch: Recognizable from tan-orange patches ranging from the size of a dinner plate to more than 20 feet in diameter, this disease usually begins attacking  Zoysia grass when it’s emerging from winter dormancy. Little can be done about it during the growing season, but it’s important to make the diagnosis as soon as possible so that the proper fungicide can be applied in the fall.

Battling Bugs

Ticks and mosquitos are no strangers during the warm seasons, but there are other bugs that can undermine outdoor fun and beautiful lawns.

Fire Ants: These pests don’t harm the grass per se, but they do ruin your lawn by making it the last place your family, friends, and pets want to be. Their stings are extremely painful, and, although serious cases are rare, their venom can be fatal. On top of that, they are known to chew through wires, and running over their huge mounded colonies with a lawn mower can damage the mower. Needless to say, controlling them is a must.

Armyworms: If birds are congregating on your lawn, chances are they’re there to feast on armyworms. Another sign is rapidly growing brown patches. It’s important not to ignore either of these indicators, as this caterpillar-like pest can damage lawns very quickly. Bermuda lawns are especially vulnerable and can be seriously damaged in a matter of days.

Grubs: The trouble starts with the adult female, who is actually a beetle. After she snacks on your plants, she heads to your lawn to lay eggs, which hatch into grubs in mid- to late summer. The grubs cause dead patches in lawns by feeding on grass roots. Investigate any dead patches by digging up a foot-square section about two to four inches deep. If there are 10 or more grubs within a square foot, your lawn will need to be treated.

Saving Your Lawn and Your Money

You’ve probably noticed that it’s not always easy to diagnose which pest is at work in your yard. The important takeaway is to watch for unexplained dead or discolored spots and, if you see any, bring in a lawn care professional to make a correct diagnosis. One call can save your lawn and prevent you from wasting a whole lot of money by attacking the problem with the wrong treatment.

For more information on these diseases and pests, visit https://www.arbor-nomics.com/what-to-watch-for/.

Doug Cash, vice president of Arbor-Nomics, joined the company in 1996 and has over 25 years of experience in the lawn care industry.