Keys of Turfgrass Insect Management

The goal of taking an IPM approach to turfgrass insect management is to use scouting techniques to monitor potential pest populations and to apply chemical control products when damage occurs beyond an acceptable aesthetic level. Pesticides are specifically selected based on knowledge of the target pest, which determines appropriate formulation, timing and rate. This cost-effective approach significantly reduces the number of unnecessary and ineffective pesticide applications made each year. To determine if a chemical application is required, a turfgrass manager must be able to:

1. Properly identify the target pest

Knowing what insect is not only present, but causing significant damage in the turfgrass system will allow you to investigate the biology and behavior of that pest. Familiarizing yourself with the life cycle of an insect can tell you the most susceptible life stage to treatment and when during the growing season that stage will be present in the soil. Insect feeding behavior can provide useful information as to when that insect will feed on the turfgrass, which could impact pesticide selection. Knowledge of insect movement and feeding can also help determine insect location in the turf.

2. Implement a monitoring program

A successful IPM program must have a continuous monitoring program to determine which insects are present in a turfgrass system. Specifically, you can determine location within a turfgrass system, if pest distribution is clumped. Repeated sampling can also help establish a site-specific threshold for treatment. Scouting techniques (see “Monitoring for Turfgrass Insects”) can vary depending on pest species so be sure to select the appropriate tools for the target insect.

3. Determine when treatment is necessary

The easiest way to anticipate insect damage is to keep records of monitoring yields each year and note at what trap count yield damage occurs. This method follows fluctuations in pest behavior, which can be influenced by a number of environmental factors, and is much more effective than a calendar date-based spray approach.

4. Select the appropriate product for control

Once you have identified the target pest, you can refine application timing and product selection by referring to the “Turfgrass Pest Info Sheets” page (link) or “Turffiles” (link). If in North Carolina, you can refer to the North Carolina Agricultural Chemicals Manual (link) for state-specific recommendations for turfgrass pest control. As mandated by federal law, you must read and follow the pesticide label prior to any application.

Remember, presence of an insect in a turfgrass system does not always require chemical control. Taking an IPM approach to turfgrass insect management will help you maintain a green, healthy turfgrass environment while avoiding unnecessary applications which help save you money, time and resources.