Texas has a warm, sunny climate that people like. Unfortunately, bugs like it, too, and Texas lawns can become infested with nasty visitors. Here are some of the most common ones and ways to prevent and eliminate them.
Chinch bugs are thin and less than 1/4 inch long with black bodies and white wings. If you see pinkish-red nymphs, those are probably chinch bugs. These pests feed mainly on Zoysia, Bermuda or St. Augustine grass. The best way to prevent chinch bugs is to encourage the presence of birds and predator bugs in your yard by avoiding the use of lawn chemicals.
Another invader that attacks zoysia, Bermuda and St. Augustine grass, as well as buffalo grass, is the grub. Grubs eat the roots of these grasses, mostly during the summer and fall. The grubs are 1/2 to an inch long and are white or beige. They’re shaped like a C and have six legs.
Treat for grubs from mid-June to the end of July by putting down bacillus popilliae spore, also called milky spore, which comes in a powder. This will kill the grubs. You can also release nematodes that eat grubs. It’s best to treat when there are more than five to 10 grubs per square foot.
Fire ants can be the bane of suburban living in Texas. These aggressive, stinging ants live in colonies with a queen, winged males and females, workers and youngsters. They like open, sunny areas and build mounds that can be 18-inch high eyesores. They’re most commonly seen in the spring and fall.
Here are the ways to get rid of fire ants. You should get together with your neighbors and carry out your campaigns at the same time. Otherwise, the ants will just go from one yard to another.
Pour about three gallons of boiling water on each mound. Try to do this after a rain. Get fire ant bait and put it down according to the directions. The bait is attractive, and the worker ants will bring it back to the colony where it will destroy all the ants. You can also release nematodes, which will eat the ants. It’s best to put these in moist soil at dusk when the ants are active.
Caterpillars can be found any time of year, but they’re most prevalent in the spring and fall. The most common ones are the spring cankerworm, tent caterpillar, Genista caterpillar and tomato hornworm. Parasitic wasps will often take care of caterpillars for you. Prune the trees or knock the caterpillars off them with a broom, so the wasps can get at them.
There are some caveats about treating for caterpillars. Don’t treat trees native to Texas, like live oak, hackberry, redbud, magnolia, ash or cypress. Caterpillar appearances are natural and the trees will be fine.
Little pests don’t have to bug you. With a few steps, you can take back your yard and enjoy living in the Lawn Star State.