Mole crickets are an invasive member of the cricket family found throughout the southeastern United States. There are 3 main species found in Florida: tawny, southern, and short-winged. These pests mostly live underground, using their front legs to help them tunnel through the dirt.
These pests resemble their cricket name in appearance, with grayish-brown color and large beady eyes. Adults can grow from 1″ to 2″ in length. They have 3 pairs of legs, 3 body segments, and a set of antennae.
Mole crickets are active year-round but cause the most damage 2 times during the year: in the spring (from March to June) when they emerge from overwintering and lay their eggs; and in fall (from August to October).
These creatures tunnel through the dirt, severing grass roots and bulging the soil upwards. They will also eat roots and shoots as they make their way across your yard. While they will eat just about any type of turf, they prefer to eat bahiagrass and bermudagrass. This damage causes brown patches to pop up on your lawn where the turf is often replaced by weeds. Mole cricket predators (such as raccoons, birds, and armadillos) will also dig up your yard in search of a meal, causing even more damage.
Mole crickets are nocturnal and are often attracted to lights that are left on overnight, especially during mating season. They are also attracted to lawns with thatch and will often overwinter there, emerging in the spring when the weather warms back up.
Common signs of mole crickets include small dirt mounds around your yard; brown or dead grass patches; a spongy feeling lawn or garden; and chewed off or dislodged seedlings.
The first step in treating mole crickets is to determine if that is the lawn pest you are dealing with. Check for them by combining 1 to 2 gallons of water with a few drops of dish soap. Choose a 4 foot square section of your lawn and spread the mixture over it. Wait 1 to 2 minutes and if you have mole crickets, they will appear at the surface of the soil.
Research has also shown nematodes to be beneficial at treating mole crickets. This is a natural method that doesn’t require the use of harsh chemicals and pesticides.
Baits can be used for mole crickets, as well. These are best utilized by setting them in the early evening. It is important that you don’t water your lawn for a few days after installing. You should also check the weather to make sure it won’t rain within a few days of installation, as well. Mole crickets will eat the bait you set out and the toxins in the bait will eliminate them.
Insecticides have also proven beneficial against these pests, although they should be handled and applied with caution. Liquid and granular versions of these treatments are most commonly used. Mole crickets can be come resistant to these chemicals so you should try and rotate which type and method you use to help avoid this. These insecticides are most effective against mole cricket nymphs so the best time to apply them is in the early summer. Make sure to water your lawn after application. These chemicals can be hazardous so this choice is often best left to a professional pest control service.
Contact your local pest control company for an evaluation and treatment plan if you suspect mole crickets or any other lawn destroying pests.