Turf Pests

Mole lawn pests UK treatment Hertfordshire, Essex, Bedfordshire

What is a turf pest?

There are a number of turf pests that are common in the UK. A turf pest is a creature that lives within the turf and feeds on the grass plant. Many turf pests feed on the root of the plant which causes a rapid deterioration in the condition of the grass, causing large areas of discoloured turf and can ultimately kills the plant.

Common turf pests

Leather Jackets

Leather Jackets are also known as Crane Fly or Daddy Long Legs. The adult is known as the Crane Fly and it is at the larvae stage of the life cycle that this creature is called a Leather Jacket. This is the stage at which they are a pest to turf and this is because they eat the roots of the grass plants.

Grass is very capable of resisting minor damage to its root system and so damage may often go unnoticed. However there is a threshold of around 25 larvae per square metre at which significant damage will be caused.

The adult, the Crane Fly or Daddy Long Legs is found in the tail end of summer and early autumn, at this point they are laying eggs in the soil. The eggs then hatch and feed during the autumn into the following spring until about May. Damage can be noticed in the spring time but as winters have become milder in recent years damage can be seen as early as the late autumn and winter time.

All the insecticides that we used to use on these pests have historically withdrawn mainly due to concerns over bee safety. This is across the whole of agriculture, horticulture and amenity so we no longer have the insecticides that would control Leather jackets in lawns. We are therefore now moving over to biological control methods which involves the use of parasitic nematodes.

These do get mixed reviews but they do work if used properly. They do involve a significant amount of watering afterwards and not only for one day. We can supply and apply these for you if you wish or some people are happy to use them independently. If you would care to have a read through some of the websites I would be happy to help or just to chat through with you how to get the best from them.

Chafer grubs

Adult chafer grubs are a reddish brown beetle around 14mm long. But it is the grub stage that is a problem to turf. The adults emerge from the soil in May-June and mate in the evenings through to the end of July, each night returning to the soil. Eventually the female chafer grub lay their eggs in the soil, laying around 15-20 eggs over several days. Eggs are often laid in compacted soil around 150mm deep, so regular aeration of a lawn can help reduce incidence as part of an Integrated Pest Management Plan.

After approximately 2 weeks the eggs hatch, in due course the chafer grub larvae move toward the surface and begin to feed on the roots of the grass plants.

You will notice the damage to your lawn in the August September period. This damage presents itself as a gradual thinning and yellowing of the lawn. The greater the chafer grub infestation the more evident the damage will be. Dead areas would expand in size and turf can literally be peeled back like the page of a book.

The problem can become evident by secondary damage such as birds pecking at and pulling back the surface. Contact your local TruGreen Lawn care specialists to treat the chafer grub infestation and return your lawn to a healthy condition.



Casting Worms

There are 28 species of worms in the UK. Only 3 produce casts that can cause a negative impact on the aesthetic qualities of a turf surface, producing casts in the spring and autumn periods.

A worms principal food source is dead or decaying plant material and thus they play an important role in the incorporation of organic matter into the soil.

Worms come to the surface in heavy rain to avoid drowning. If they can’t move back into the soil and are exposed to the sun they will die.

Earthworms perform a lot of positive activity, about 90% of autumn leaves may be pulled down into the soil and as such the depth of top soil can increase. Earthworms and their burrows also play a role in aerating the soil and aid drainage as a result.

The problems of worm casts can be reduced in a number of ways, firstly if the grass is cut at the right height approximately 1-1.5 inches or 25 – 37mm then casts will be less evident visually.


Frit Fly

What a Frit Fly looks like

  1. Frit Flies are yellow/white larvae
  2. Grow up to 5mm in length
  3. Normally there are three generation cycles per year
  4. Those present between September – December are the most destructive

How to control Frit Flies?

  1. Pesticides can be used to treat the frit fly between November and March



There are two main types of ant with the red ones being more destructive

How to control Ants?

  1. Both biocide and pesticide products are likely to kill ants
  2. Alternatively break open the nest and apply boiling water


Lawn Pest Control

The most common lawn pests which affect British lawns are:

• Chafer Grubs • Leatherjackets (Crane Fly, Daddy Long Legs)
• Casting Worms • Moles
• Ants • Dogs

It is important that the pest is identified and the appropriate course of action is taken before the pest causes extensive damage to your lawn. Products for these lawn pests are not generally available in DIY form to homeowners.

If the condition of your lawn is being affected by some of these common pests then contact your TruGreen lawn care specialist for advice on the best course of action.

The larvae of both the Chafer grubs and Leatherjackets eat the root structure of your lawn. The degree of damage varies depending on population numbers but could result in total loss of your lawn.

Worm casts on your lawn are unsightly. A high population of worms can also attract another pest into your garden, the mole.  If there are significant castings and they are left untreated they can facilitate the growth of weeds.

Ants that live in the lawn leave hills or patches of fine sandy soil.  Although they are more a nuisance than a true lawn pest, they can still cause the lawn to suffer.  Total eradication may not be possible but some control can be achieved.

Dogs, especially female dogs, can leave circular patches that have a dark green ring of lush grass surrounding each brown (dead) centre where they urinate. Little can be done to prevent or cure this situation. If you are around as your dog urinates on the lawn, pour large quantities of water on the patch. But even this may not stop the urine from damaging the grass plants.  Lawn repairs may be necessary in severe cases.


TruGreen want to help you identify Turf Pests we have highlighted points to look out for in the links below:

How can you identify a Turf Pest?

Why treat a Turf Pest?

When and How to treat a Turf Pest?

If you would like some friendly advice, please drop us a call on 01920 461 958.