This time of the year we start getting a lot of calls from people all around the Treasure Valley for billbug control, because billbug damage actually looks very similar to lawns that have drought stress, however South Western Idaho won’t start seeing billbug damage until the middle of June, no matter what anyone on the radio tells you.
Spraying for billbugs right now is futile because there are not even any eggs or larvae to spray for yet. If you think that you have billbugs this early in the season then odds are that it actually is drought stress, and you haven’t set your sprinklers correctly to help your lawn come out of the wintertime. Billbug adults will generally start coming out of their winter hibernation in your soil when the ground temperature can steadily stay above 60° (that is usually around the middle of May). Once the adults are out and about, they take about a month to start dating, mate, lay their eggs and then hatch their terrible little offspring. The larvae can be abundant during the eight weeks in the middle of the summer. If your lawn is lucky enough to have some of this abundance, then they can start to cause severe damage.
Destructive Lawn Pests
Billbug larvae will hollow out your grass stems, and this will then lead to the “browning” of your lawn, and that is why drought stress and billbug damage can easily be mistaken for each other. The easiest way to tell if you have drought stress or billbug problems is to pull on a patch of the brown grass. If the patch comes out easily then you probably have billbug problems. The roots that the larvae have hollowed out no longer attach the grass to the ground like they are supposed to, so that is why the patches of grass will come out so easily. If the billbugs are not treated for then they could potentially destroy the whole root system of your lawn. If you want to confirm that it is billbugs, then around the 4th of July you can dig into the soil and actually see the larvae in the top few inches of the soil. If you think that you might have billbugs then as with most things early detection is extremely helpful, but unfortunately it is also difficult. Digging up small sample sizes in suspected areas is usually the best way to do it. Examine your thatch and soil layers for larvae, and test the grass blades to see if they easily pull out or if the blades are hollow
The best way to combat this problem is to get an insecticide into your grass through the roots before billbug adults start laying their eggs. This procedure gives your lawn the backup that it needs to be able to protect itself from newly born billbug larvae. People who live in neighborhoods are more susceptible to billbug damage because you never know how well your neighbors are taking care of their lawn. Billbugs (and lots of other lawn problems) are perpetuated because of your friends next door that are ignorant and/or carefree to their own lawns. One of the best ways to make sure that you have a billbug free yard is to do everything that you can to encourage your neighbors to also have a billbug free lawn. If your house is close to a golf course, then that is another common area that you will see billbugs because the turfgrass is well maintained and difficult to spray entirely for billbug control.
Contact a Local Lawn Care Company
If you suspect billbugs are destroying your lawn, contact your local lawn care company immediately. They will be able to identify a pest problem versus drought stress. Do not hesitate as this problem only gets worse when left untreated.