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What's digging in your yard?
Extension advice
Ashley Hoppers ext agent
Ashley Hoppers is UGA Extension Service agent in Liberty County.
Like some of us before our morning cup of coffee, some lawns are slow to wake up this year. And as they begin to green up, some gardeners are seeing something unusual in their lawn. What could this be?
Over the past couple weeks, I’ve had numerous people tell me that “something is digging” in their yard, and “is it mole crickets?”
My advice to you is look at your affected area. Does the mystery lawn guest leave little piles of granulated soil? Does it look like a small ant mound without an entrance?
These hills of soil are caused by earthworms, as they make the piles by passing soil through their bodies. The soil will look granulated, like it passed through a tube.
Earthworms are not lawn pests. Some believe that they dig enough to damage some lawns, but let me go ahead and tell you, there would have to be an incredible amount of them to cause any type of damage.
Contrarily, their activity is beneficial as they are cultivating and fertilizing the soil. Sometimes they dig enough to bury turf with their piles of dirt, but the soil will resettle after a rain or light watering.
If the soil has tunnels on the surface, the grass pulls up easily and the grass has no roots, then you may have mole crickets. I say this cautiously because many people think they have mole crickets, but few do.
How do you know if you do?
Mole crickets make tunnels about the width of your finger. The tunnels are more easily seen in bare dirt on the morning after a rain. You generally do not see holes in the ground or dirt piles with them. I check for mole crickets by running my fingers underground in the tunnels. You can feel where they dig.
To be certain what you have, you can try to flush out these pests. Mix 1 ounce of lemon dishwashing detergent in a gallon of water. Pour it slowly over the affected area. Wait three to five minutes and soil insects should come to the surface.
This should bring up mole crickets and earthworms. This trick should work best on moist lawns during warm weather.
Mole crickets are about 1-inch long, tan-brown with beady eyes and large, strong front legs. They do not hop much and they do not chirp. Mole crickets hatch in late May and June.
They are best controlled with a spray or granular insecticide in June. This time of year they are fully mature and very hard to kill, so is best to wait until June to treat, as that is when your treatment will have the best results.
If you must control mole crickets in the spring, I recommend a bait. These are insecticides placed on something the mole cricket will eat. The manufacturers can add something to the bait to attract the pest. Contact us for more details on using baits.
Another question I am getting a lot these days is, “When will my lawn green up?”
Lawns can be slow to green up for several reasons. Pre-emergence herbicides can delay green up. Nothing we do to our landscapes has a unilateral effect. There is always a tradeoff: herbicides kill weeds, but they also stress the turf.
The uncharacteristically cool weather we’ve been having may be delaying green up as well. Water the lawn with a ½- to ¾-inch of water once a week. Deep watering like this encourages deep rooting and strong turf.
Do not water established turf every day or every other day. This leads to problems like weak turf, diseases and certain types of insect infestations.
Wait until early May to evaluate turf. Some lawns may not green up well until then, especially if conditions remain cool and dry.
I also hear, “Where are the yellow patches in my lawn coming from?”
Well, this depends on the kind of turf that you have. Bahia grass commonly turns yellow in the spring. This is probably a nutrient deficiency. Since Bahia is more of a weed in our area, I would ignore the problem. It should go away as the season progresses.
If your centipede lawn is yellowing, your lawn may be suffering from centipede decline. Affected lawns will yellow and die out in spots. Centipede decline can be the result of improper care or poor soils.
Centipede decline can be caused by hard compacted soils, over-fertilization, too high mowing height (over 1.5-inches high), thatch and other factors. Identify and remove these problems and the lawn may recover slowly on its own.

Once again, contact your local County Extension Office at 912-876-2133 for more details.

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