In the last several weeks, we have had a few inquiries regarding “whiteflies” in and around home lawns. These insects have been described as invisible until the turf is disturbed when a mass emergence of tiny, white insects fly from the canopy. Turns out, these “whiteflies” are actually leafhoppers which can infest turfgrass but are rarely seen in large enough numbers to attract attention.
Leafhopper adults and immatures feed by sucking plant juices from the leaves and stems which is why the damage appears as general yellowing of the turf. If you look closely at some of the leaf blades, you may be able to see stippling (or small yellow dots) where they have fed. Most of the time, chemical treatment is not recommended for leafhoppers. Broad-spectrum insecticides will kill off natural enemies of leafhoppers that are usually quite successful at controlling the pest population. However, if leafhopper damage is extensive and treatment is necessary, products containing the active ingredient carbaryl are most effective for home lawns. There is some evidence that pyrethroids (products containing bifenthrin, zeta-cypermethrin, deltamethrin, lambda-cyhalothrin) will also be effective.