Lawns are prone to not only pathogenic infections but also pest infestation such as from crickets referred to as mole crickets. The pests are the most destructive lawn insects in the southeastern regions of the United States and cause serious damage to lawns, sod farms and golf courses, cites Daniel A. Potter in "Destructive Turfgrass Insects". Damage control starts with timely identification of the insect and reducing conditions that increase grass susceptibility to the pest.
The growth habit of various turfgrass species makes the grasses more prone to injury. Grasses with an open growth habit such as bahiagrass create root dryness which in turn invites the pests. Bermudagrass turf that is mowed very short results in reduction of root depth and this creates favorable conditions for mole cricket infestation. St. Augustinegrass lawns are less severely affected with zoysiagrass the least affected grass species. On a general note, grasses that have a fine texture suffer the most damage.
Mole crickets are insects from the Orthoptera order with 1 ½-inches-long, cylindrical, brown bodies. The rear of the head has a shield like area with two pairs of distinct, light colored spots. The front legs are enlarged and shovel like with two finger like projections. Adult crickets have sturdy wings long enough to cover nearly the entire abdomen when lying flat. Mole crickets are fast runners but poor jumpers. The insects fly mostly during the night. Young crickets or the nymphs are almost like the adults in appearance but smaller in size and without the well developed wings.
The pests are primarily root eaters and feed on grass roots. As the pests feed, their movement through the soil under turf disturbs normal growth. The insects use their strong front legs to tunnel through the roots. This loosens and uproots turf, leading to drying and dying grass. The nocturnal pests feed at night and can easily tunnel through 10 to 20 feet of turfgrass during a single night. The pests spend the day in their burrows that they create in March and July and between November and December.
The recommended time to apply pesticides to lawn for mole cricket control is during June and July at the time of egg hatching and when nymphs are young. Pests are hard to control once they mature and tunnel deep into the soil. Water all pesticides well into the soil so that chemicals penetrate the burrows. Avoid watering lawn for the next 36 hours after treatment. Recommended insecticides include isofenphos, chlorpyrifos or acephate.