‘Lawn caterpillars’ is a catch-all term for a variety of lawn pests in grub or worm form, that can devastate your garden. They eat your grass, and many will also have a go at your bedding plants. You can never get rid of every critter, but you can control them early in the season.
How do you know if you have lawn caterpillars?
You won’t see them, because they emerge from the soil at night to feed. But you will soon the damage they do.
♦ To catch them early, look for discoloured spots on the blades of grass.
♦ As the caterpillars grow, they start to eat the roots of the grass. You will soon see patches of dead grass emerging on your lawn. At this point, you may also notice discolouration in the remaining grass and holes in plant leaves.
♦ Since brown patches on your lawn may be caused by fungal diseases, you need to test for lawn caterpillars to apply the right treatment. To do this, leave a wet towel on the patch overnight. If lawn caterpillars are to blame, there will be a few stuck on the towel in the morning.
Treatments for lawn caterpillar infestations:
1. To control the emergence of these pests:
Do not overuse fertilizers. Young caterpillars feed on the top growth. A fast growing lawn will therefore promote lawn caterpillar infestation.
Mow your lawn often – every few days in the growing season. Then discard the cut grass far from your lawn.
Spray your grass and plants with a Neem Oil solution. This may not kill them, but it will make the grass and your plants taste nasty and they’ll starve.
2. To kill them outright:
It’s far better to spot them early and control them, as chemical insecticides can kill beneficial bugs, bees. They can also impact on the garden food chain and harm or reduce your bird life.
If you have to – apply an insecticide especially formulated for them, but that is safe for bees. Spray directly on the patches, around them and wherever you see discolouration on your lawn.
Various chemical compounds are used with some suitable for early stage of infestation, and others used to kill larger caterpillars and for late heavy infestation. Your lawn service or garden centre will advise on the best product, so take a picture of the damage to show them.