Mole crickets emerge from overwintering in the spring as the weather warms up. Mole crickets are small pests that resemble moles. They are found throughout the southeastern United States. These insects live underground, feeding on grass and plant stems and roots. They use their front legs to tunnel through the soil, devouring roots and stems as they go.
There are three major species of mole crickets that are found in Florida: Southern mole crickets that feed on other insects; short-winged mole crickets that feed on Bermudagrass and St. Augustine grass; and tawny mole crickets that feed on Bermudagrass and Bahiagrass.
These pests are attracted to lawns with thick layers of thatch that provide them with protection, along with a place to overwinter when the weather turns cold. They are also attracted to lights at night and can often be found outside your home when yard or porch lights are left on.
Common signs of mole crickets include:
- Small soil mounds formed when they burrow that are scattered around your lawn
- Uprooted grass or brown, dry, or dead grass patches around tunnel sites in your yard
- Spongy feeling lawn or garden
- Chewed off furrows or dislodged seedlings in your yard or garden
Protect your lawn and garden with these tips to eliminate and prevent mole crickets:
- Soap and water flush: This method can be used to see if you have mole crickets in your yard and, if you do, how many you have. Simply mix 1 to 2 gallons of water with a few drops of dish soap. You can spread the mixture over a 4′ x 4′ square area of your lawn or pour it down an existing burrow hole. If they are present, they will appear within 1 to 2 minutes.
- Glass trap: You can trap these insects and eliminate them with the glass trap method. Spread honey in the bottom of a mason jar and bury it so that the top of the jar is even with the ground. Cover the opening of the mason jar with straw. They will be attracted to the honey and become trapped when they burrow themselves inside the jar.
- Nematodes: Nematodes are a natural and effective method of pest control you can use in your yard. Just apply them according to the directions. Nematodes also work for other common lawn pests, as well.
- Prevention: Once they have been discovered and eliminated, prevention methods should be implemented going forward to keep them from coming back. Keep an eye out for signs of mole crickets around your yard. Fill in any cracks in the soil of your yard with kerosene-soaked sand. When planting new seeds, soak them in iodine before planting. Avoid using turf grasses that attract them (Bermudagrass, Bahiagrass, etc.) and instead utilize turfs that are less susceptible to their damage (Zoysiagrass and centipedegrass). Try using natural repellent plants and essential oils in your yard or garden, including marigold, lemongrass citronella, and peppermint. Encourage natural predators to frequent your yard, including birds, frogs, lizards, and beetles.
If you have a problem with mole crickets or any other pests, contact your local pest control company for a complete evaluation and treatment plan.