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What's Eating My Lawn? Northwest Florida's Most Common Turf Insects

by Emily Durgan | Mon, Apr 18, 2016

What Insects Are Eating My Lawn?

Being a homeowner in Northwest Florida has many advantages, including a year-round climate that is conducive to spending time outside. If you’re like many homeowners, you probably think of your lawn and landscape as an extension of the living areas inside your home. No matter how you use the grassy areas on your property, the extent to which you can enjoy them will always depend on the quality of your residential lawn care maintenance.

The four most common residential grass types we use on Northwest Florida properties are St. Augustine Grass, Bermuda Grass, Centipede Grass, and Zoysia Grass. These grasses are popular throughout the Panhandle and Northwest Florida because they tolerate everything from salt spray to active children and cold temperatures.

By choosing grass varieties that are suited to our location, and combining those choices with a consistent landscape maintenance protocol, you can minimize the likelihood that you'll encounter problems that grass-eating insects are known to cause throughout Northwest Florida.

St. Augustine Grass

St. Augustine Grass is one of the most common types of grass that is found in Florida yards. It is ideal for Northwest Florida because of its tolerance for seasonal climate variations, especially the warm, humid temperatures we experience throughout the summer.

If St. Augustine Grass receives too much fertilizer or water, it develops a condition known as thatch, which compromises its health and increases the likelihood that the Southern chinch bug (Blissus insularis Barber) will cause severe damage that will require treatment from a professional lawn care service.

Bermuda Grass

Bermuda Grass is one of the most common warm season grasses. Over the years, turf breeders have succeeded in improving its texture. Consequently, it has become a favorite grass choice for southern golf courses. It is also used on high profile residential landscapes. Due to the high cost and labor-intensive maintenance that Bermuda Grass requires, concerns about upkeep may be a deterrent for some homeowners.

Centipede Grass

Centipede Grass (Eremochloa ophiuroides [Munro] Hack), dates back to 1916 when it was brought to the United States from S.E. Asia. It is the most common type of grass that is used on residential lawns throughout the Florida Panhandle. It is also ideally suited to North and Central Florida’s climate and soil types.

Centipede Grass is a low-growing grass that has a medium texture and a lighter green color than other grass species. Because it grows so slowly, it needs far less fertilizer than other grasses.

Zoysia Grass

Zoysia Grass (Zoysia spp) came to the United States from Asia. It is used throughout the country because it is considered an aesthetically appealing type of grass. Most recently, the efforts of turfgrass breeders have produced some significant improvements in Zoysia Grass. Hiring a local lawn care service to handle your lawn and landscape maintenance needs is the best way to avoid problems with your Zoysia Grass Lawn.

Common Insects Whose Destruction Calls For Lawn Treatment Service

There are times when circumstances such as excessive rainfall create the perfect conditions for grass-eating insects. In situations like this, any well-maintained lawn can become a breeding and feeding ground for a variety of destructive pests.

The insects that cause the most severe damage to these grasses includes:

  • The Southern Chinch bug (Blissus insularis)
  • The Armyworm, including the Fall Armyworm, (Spodoptera frugiperda)
  • The tropical sod webworm (Herpetogramma phaeopteralis)
  • Three types of cricket moles: the Shortwinged Cricket Mole (Scapteriscus abbreviatus), the Southern Cricket Mole (Scapteriscus borellii), and the Tawny Cricket Mole (Scapteriscus vicinus.)

Southern Chinch Bug


The Southern Chinch Bug is the worst insect menace for St. Augustine Grass. This predatory pest doesn’t confine its damage to St. Augustine Grass; it is just as content to eat weeds and other types of grass. Since they work in groups, it doesn’t take long for a group of Southern Chinch bugs to attack large areas of grass, turning sod into bare soil. In Northern Florida, Southern Chinch bugs cause the most severe damage between April and October.

The Fall Armyworm

The Fall Armyworm

Fall armyworms look like many caterpillars, except that their bodies have the look of military camouflage clothing, so they easily blend into the grass where they’re hard to see. Fall armyworms feed during the day. The extensive damage that occurs when Fall armyworms are present is hastened because other lawn caterpillars join them and feed in the same areas.

The Tropical Sod Webworm

Tropical Sod Webworm

Tropical sod webworms are a species of lawn caterpillar that are capable of causing severe damage to lawns very quickly. They lay their eggs on grass blades or thatchy areas. Tropical sod webworms like Fall Armyworms tend to eat grass blades and confine their damage to the grass rather than the soil. In Northern Florida, the peak period for Tropical sod webworm activity is between April and November.

Mole Crickets

Southern Mole Cricket

The three non-native mole cricket species that inflict significant damage to Northwest Florida lawns and landscapes include the Shortwinged, the Southern, and the Tawny mole crickets. Mole crickets are insects whose bodies are designed to help them dig holes underground. They have thick front legs from which blade like appendages protrudes.

Mole crickets cause the worst damage during warm weather, especially at night, after a rainfall, or when the grass is still moist from irrigation. Mole crickets aren’t particular about what they eat. They spare no part of the lawn and eat blades and roots. It isn’t unusual for groups of mole crickets to dig their way through enough soil in a single night to create tunnels that extend a distance of 20 feet or more from their starting position. The combination of underground digging and eating every grass blade and root will destroy a lawn in no time.

Don’t Risk Losing Your Lawn to Predatory Insects

Don’t allow these destructive insects to destroy your lawn and landscape. Leave your residential lawn care to local lawn care, professionals, such as GreenEarth. Professional lawn treatment services will keep your lawn in pristine condition so you don’t have to worry about the damage that typical grass pests cause before you can deal with the problem.

If you’d like a consultation or want to know what we can do to help you, give us a call at our Panama City Beach office at (850) 236-1959, or call our Santa Rosa Beach office at (850) 267-0010 to set up an appointment. You can also fill out the online form on our websiteto schedule a consultation.

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