Skip Orth, owner of Father and Son Pest and Lawn Solutions and author of the book “What Every Home Owner Along The Emerald Coast Needs To Know About Lawn Care” says that lawns along the Emerald Coast are now experiencing a major onslaught from a tiny caterpillar called a sod web worm.
“Sod web worms are the larva of a small brown lawn moth,” Orth explains. “These moths hover over the lawn and drop their eggs into the grass. The caterpillars that hatch from the eggs are the sod web worms that feed on the grass blades. They have the potential to do a significant amount of damage to the lawn in a very short amount of time.”
Short life cycle
Orth describes one of the characteristics of these pests that makes them so destructive, their short life cycle.
“Sod web worms can complete a life cycle in as little as seven days. Therefore, they have the potential of re-infesting your lawn several times even after having it treated,” Orth said. “Because the sod web worms stay on top of the soil, in the thatch area of the grass, treatments only remain effective until the grass is irrigated or it rains. After that, the lawn is vulnerable to re-infestation.”
Sod web worms and new sod
Orth says that the problem with sod web worms has been particularly acute with new sod installed this year.
“We have inspected several new lawns that were installed up to four months ago that have experienced severe sod web worm damage,” he said. “Sod farms constantly treat their grass; however, they can’t kill the sod web worm eggs lying dormant in the sod. Those eggs are like a ticking time bomb that will devastate the lawn when they hatch.”
Orth suggests watching newly installed sod every day and treating it at the first sign of sod web worm activity or wait until late October to install new sod when the sod web worms will be inactive.
Will the grass recover?
Orth explains that when he treats a lawn for sod web worms, the first thing homeowners want to know is if their lawn is going to recover.
“Sod web worms only eat the grass blades. They do not eat the roots or runners. Therefore, the grass usually has a pretty good chance of recovery by next growing season, as long as you keep the lawn treated and re-infestation does not occur,” Orth said. “The best thing to do to encourage recovery is to make sure the lawn gets regular irrigation to keep it from getting further stressed by drying out and to give it a very light application of a balanced fertilizer. Too much fertilizer will also stress the lawn, so make sure it is a very light application. And then apply potassium over the winter to help encourage root growth.”
What to look for and how to treat your yard
According to Orth, many people mistake sod web worm damage for lack of water and assume something is wrong with their irrigation system. Sod web worms, he says, prefer shady areas and avoid parts of the yard that get direct sunlight.
When the pests first begin to eat the grass, the lawn will take on a whitish appearance in the area of activity and then turn brown. The individual blades of grass will display chew marks on the edges of the blades and/or have areas on the surface of the blade where the green has been stripped away, leaving what appears to be a translucent window on the surface of the blade.
If you see these signs occur, make an application of any insecticide labeled for use on lawns immediately. Orth says that liquid insecticide works best by coating the grass blades the sod web worms are chewing on.
Free lawn consultation
If you suspect you may have sod web worm activity in your lawn, Father and Son Pest and Lawn Solutions offers FREE LAWN CONSULTATIONS! They can be reached by calling or texting 850-240-7935 and you can visit their website at fatherandsonlandscape.com.