I’ve never been much of a lawn guy – I’d prefer it if my property was a biodiverse food forest. But a little bit of grass is a nice thing, and I maintain a small patch of it to enjoy sitting on during the warm, summer months. And just like a garden, a patch of grass has a legion of pests waiting to call it home as well as dinner. One such pest is the mole cricket. Mole crickets are the bane of any lawn aficionado’s existence and can thwart all of your hard work maintaining a delightful, green patch of grass.
But there’s a reason that humans are higher up on the food chain than these mole crickets – we can easily outsmart them and thwart their advances. In this article, we will explore what mole crickets are, what they do, and how we can get rid of them.
What are mole crickets?
Mole crickets are a species of cricket belonging to the insect family Gryllotalpidae. They grow to be approximately an inch and a half to two inches long and have large, shovel-like forelimbs that help with digging and burrowing. Their appearance and behavior are what give them their name – they look and behave quite a bit like a mole.
Mole crickets tend to be common in damp, warm environments. The southeast United States is where they seem to do the most damage. These pests are a lot less common in cooler environments further north.
What do they do?
The hallmark of mole crickets is dead grass and raised burrows. Mole crickets tend to be more attracted to lawns that have a lot of organic material left behind from the mowing process. They also like well-fertilized lawns as well as very damp lawns. A fertile, wet lawn with lots of thatch left behind from mowing is pretty much the perfect habitat for mole crickets.
Mole crickets do damage to grass by damaging the roots as they burrow. These pests dig deep burrows in which to lay eggs and live over winter. The disruption to the soil makes it difficult for grass to continue to grow.
How to control mole crickets
There are chemical insecticides that you can use to get rid of your mole crickets, but we don’t recommend the spraying of synthetic chemicals, especially when it comes to maintaining something as non-essential as grass. One of the best ways to control the population of these pests is by applying parasitic nematodes to your lawn early in the spring. These parasites will attack and kill the adults.
Spring is a good time to release the nematodes because that’s when the female mole cricket lays eggs. If you can get to the adults before they reproduce, you can radically reduce the number of crickets you’ll have to deal with later on in the year.
If you have found a compound of mole cricket tunnels, don’t try to dig them up! You can actually flush them out by adding a tablespoon of liquid soap, like dish soap or castile soap, to a gallon of water and pouring the water over the area where you suspect mole crickets are burrowing. If a few of these insects emerge, you likely have an infestation in that area and additional nematodes should be introduced. Crabanoid wasps and tachinid flies are also known to feed on these pests.
How to prevent mole cricket infestations
Ultimately, one of the best things you can do to deal with these pests is to prevent them from ever becoming a problem. Routine application of parasitic nematodes can help keep them under control, as will maintaining a clean lawn that doesn’t have a lot of thatch and isn’t overwatered.
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