Every lawn has many different insects. This is necessary for its health and functioning, as well as the well-being of the environment as a whole. However, not all insects are beneficial. In order to determine which pests to remove, you will need to do some lawn insect identification.
The truth is that very few of the insects one generally sees in their yards will cause damage. Less than 1% of insects lead to problems and really, those are the only insects that should be thought of as pests.
For this reason, it is important to avoid using broad-spectrum insecticides, as they will kill not only the bad insects but the beneficial ones as well.
In this article, I’ll go over some of the most common lawn insects and provide a photo and a short description of each.
We’ll start with the beneficial insect varieties and then move on to the lawn insects that will cause problems and damage in your yard.
Beneficial Lawn Insect Identification
Insects present on your lawn that are beneficial are usually predators.
These predatory lawn insects search out and feed on other insects, their prey. There are certain predatory insects, such as the assassin bug, that have mouthparts to let them penetrate their prey’s soft body. They then consume all of the internal fluids, leaving only the outer shell.
Other predators, such as the pretty ladybird beetle (or ladybug), have mouthparts that let them chew. This lets them eat their prey in its entirety.
Let’s go over some of the most common beneficial lawn insect identification. You might find some of these on the grassy areas of your property:
Ground beetles are usually a shiny bronze, green, or tan color. They are a little bit smaller than the Japanese beetle.
Even the larvae of this type of beetle prey on soft-bodied insects, as well as certain types of caterpillar.
Ladybugs or Ladybird Beetles
Ladybird beetles are often called ladybugs. These beetles are often considered a sign of good luck if they land on you and it’s certainly lucky to have them in your lawn.
That’s because they feed on other insects, eating the whole of their prey. Both the larvae and adult versions of the ladybird beetle do this. They have big appetites, so you can count on them to get rid of a lot of the destructive insects you might have on your lawn.
Ladybird beetle larvae are generally dark in color but decorated with bright spots. People who don’t know they are larvae of ladybirds sometimes find them a little alarming, but there’s no need to worry.
The rove beetle is a little longer in shape than other species of beetle.
Like the ground beetle and ladybird beetle, they feed on many different kinds of soft-bodied insect.
Harmful Lawn Insect Identification
Most people trying to identify lawn insects are either working on a nature project with their kids, or are concerned that they have bugs that will damage their lawn.
Here are a few harmful lawn insects to watch out for:
Sod webworms are a species of lawn caterpillar. They tend to be quite common in the summer and fall.
In their adult form, they’re a tan-colored small lawn moth that is between half an inch and three quarters of an inch in size.
It chooses the spaces between turfgrass blades to lay its eggs. After about a week of the eggs being laid, they hatch and small caterpillars emerge.
These caterpillars feed on the grass blades, causing damage.
Chinch bugs inhabit the southern regions of the United States. One reason for this is the fact that St. Augustines grass is their favorite food source.
Texas and Florida are two states where this pest is especially abundant.
Chinch bugs are extremely small. This is why they’re often unnoticed while they’re causing damage. They spend most of their time in the thatch of the grass.
When these bugs reach their adult form, they’re still tiny, comparable in size to a head of a pen.
White grubs are the form taken at the larval stage of many species of scarb beetle. It’s when the white grubs are underground that they cause damage.
They feed on the grass roots.
White grubs exist in the greatest numbers between the spring and fall months. Late summer and early fall is when most homeowners notice the damage that has been done, and I have a great article about getting rid of lawn grubs that will help you address this problem.
Spittlebugs are mostly found in centipede grass. They are tiny, winged insects and they have visible stripes on their wings.
If you have a problem with spittlebugs, you’ll probably notice a frothy substance in the thatch level of your grass. This is the area where the bugs live. Centipede grass develops thatch quickly, which is why it’s popular with these lawn insects.
If you have a spittlebug problem, you will probably notice it when you walk on the grass. That’s because the bugs will tend to fly out.
When they’re in their larval form, hunting billbugs are species of weevils. They have long, distinctly crooked snouts.
If you have a problem with this pest, you’ll probably see them within the blades of grass or even on sidewalks in close proximity to a lawn.
These bugs feed on the blades of your grass. As they do so, they tend to leave patches of grass that are dying or brown in color.
Mole crickets are found predominantly in the southern United States.
If they are above the surface of your lawn, you’ll probably see them because they’re big. These bugs are more than an inch in length.
Mole Crickets spend most of their lives underground and dig through the dirt. When they do this, they leave small areas of raised ground.
These bugs cause lawn damage by breaking off grass roots. This happens when they make their tunnels.
Fall armyworms are bigger than the tropical sod webworm. If you have a problem with fall armyworms in the United States, you’re likely to do so between the late summer and early fall.
Fall armyworms are simply what armyworm moths are in the larval stage. This moth has a wingspan of between 30 and 40 mm. When fall armyworms reach the caterpillar stage, they have heads that are a sort of inverted “Y” shape.
Fall Armyworms feed on the blades of your grass.
Where there’s sand or soil, you’re sure to find ants making their home.
In general (and in low quantities), I’m ok with ants living in my lawn. They aerate the soil naturally, and I admire their work ethic.
But if you have a huge ant infestation, and they’re coming into your home or bothering your kids while they play in your yard and you want to remove them, this is how you can do so naturally, and here are the best lawn ant killer products available right now that I can recommend.
Simple Way to Find Out if You Have an Insect Problem
If you’re seeing lawn damage and think you might have an insect infestation, but don’t know what kind of insect it is, try this general test.
It’s called a soap-flush.
The process involves mixing four or five tablespoons of dish soap into two gallons of water. Pour this mixture onto an area of your lawn that is between four and six square feet.
If you have insects, they will come out within the next five minutes.
It’s normal (and perfectly fine) to see some insects emerge.
But when you see huge numbers of insects emerge, you can assume you have a significant insect problem that needs to be addressed.
You can then complete lawn insect identification and figure out what type of bugs you’re dealing with in your lawn.
Note, that if you use this method you should rinse the area well with a hose afterward. Too much dish soap can kill grass by interfering with its ability to absorb water.
So you’ll want to flush the area to avoid a big dead patch of lawn.
Things to Remember When Getting Rid of Insects
One of the most important things that you need to know when deciding on a plan of action for dealing with an insect infestation is the insect’s life cycle.
Once you’ve determined what kind of damaging insect is infesting your lawn, you need to find out about its life cycle. The life cycle is what will guide you as you set up control measures and decide on when and how they should be used.
It’s always better to try the least toxic methods you can find before you resort to anything stronger.
Some non-toxic approaches include biological pesticides, repellents and barriers, oils and soaps, and beneficial insects. I’m a huge fan of using beneficial insects to get rid of harmful insects on my property. For example a great way to clear up lawn grubs is to spread beneficial nematodes (worms) in the area and allow them to eat the grubs. You can buy them on Amazon.
It’s a great, natural way to clear your insect problem while doing no harm to your yard’s ecosystem.
Only use strong and toxic insecticides if you find it absolutely necessary. If you choose to go this route, you must be especially careful to follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer, and be sure you know how long you need to wait before allowing your kids and pets to play in that area.