Originally created 06/29/01

Control mole crickets before yard is damaged



It's an appropriate weekend to declare your independence from mole crickets.

These critters are a major problem because they tunnel through the soil and feed on grass roots, stems and leaves. They push up the dirt and will make your lawn seem spongy when you walk on it.

The next three weeks or so is the prime time of the year to treat for mole crickets.

Mole crickets spend the winter deep in the soil as adults and large nymphs (young state). Those that spend winter as nymphs complete development and become adults in the spring, in time for the mating season. Mating takes place in late winter and early spring as the soil and air temperatures warm.

Both males and females fly on warm, humid nights, sometimes in large numbers, looking for mates or new areas to lay their eggs. If you have been to a spring softball game at night and have been bombarded by them, you know what I'm talking about. These flights occur from early April to early June.

About 14 days after mating, the female lays 35-40 eggs in the soil. Adults of both sexes die after mating, and few are left after June. They are unlikely to do much damage.

By late June or early July, all the eggs should have hatched. The baby mole crickets are at a point in their life when they are easiest to control. The small mole crickets spend more time at or near the surface and are relatively easy to kill. If you wait, the size and extent of tunneling increases as they mature.

If you think your yard is infested, pour soapy water on a suspected area late in the evening. Soap will irritate the bugs and make them come to the surface.

Five insecticides are effective against mole crickets: Imidacloprid and cyfluthrin (Bayer products), Sevin or Dursban bait and Orthene spray. The baits are best for late-season nymphs and adults.

Mole crickets feed at night, so apply insecticides as late in the day as possible. If using a liquid, apply at least 1 gallon of solution per 1,000 square feet. Unless the label instructs otherwise, like on Orthene, irrigate thoroughly after application to move the material off the foliage and down to the soil surface.

Allow the soil to dry out for three or four days, and then irrigate thoroughly in the evening. Apply the insecticide the next evening.

Mole crickets are sensitive to soil moisture and will move down in the ground to find comfortable conditions if the surface is dry. Watering will bring them back up to resume feeding the following night, making them easier targets for control.

Sid Mullis is director of the University of Georgia Extension Service office for Richmond County. Call him at 821-2349 or send e-mail to smullis@uga.edu. The offices that serve Richmond and Columbia counties have a Web page at www.griffin.peachnet.edu/ga/columbia.