There’s no such thing as a trouble-free summer! If the weather is kind and the fruits of summer colourful and abundant, then there are plenty of other admirers ready to take advantage. So, what type of lawn pests have been enjoying the summer as much as we have, and what should we do about them?
Most of our lawn pests are out there all year round, but it’s in extreme conditions that we usually spot them doing their damage. This doesn’t automatically mean, however, that right now is the best time to take action. Lets consider the main villains, and see whether it’s better to put up with them or plan a more timely strategy to use in a few months time.
Ants normally favour patios and other built-areas as these provide shelter if the summer weather turns bad; but in the hotter conditions we’ve been enjoying they’ll readily seek out some nice sunny patches of the lawn as their new favourite spot. And ants colonize fast!
Before you know it, it’s ‘spread-your-wings’ day; hundreds of winged ants emerge, preparing to fly and establish new nests. But by then it’s really too late, and in any case ant treatments are not easy to use. The powder products can make the lawn look unsightly, and the best sprays, while more effective, are only available to licensed professionals. There are a few alternative techniques that I mention in my book, Modern Lawn Care, but it’s best to try these in small areas before going wild with them, just in case they don’t work!
Moles cause much more visible damage of course but, as with all pests, they’re only doing what nature intended and it takes a very hard heart to kill these ‘velvet-coated gentlemen’. Much better to deter them if you can, although some of the techniques are more fable than fact.
With both ants and moles there is a good argument for getting professional help if you can’t live with them. That way you can use the most effective poison or, with the loveable mole, arrange for suitably distant relocation far away from any gardens. Also remember, moles are searching for their food which includes all those nasty grubs, so get rid of those and you may see the moles leaving of their own accord.
Cranefly (Daddy Long Legs) just love to bask in the hot sun, and let’s face it, they’re not the smallest of flying insects so are difficult to ignore! But by the time you see them they’ve probably laid their eggs already; it’s too late to take serious action because it’s only when those eggs hatch into greedy grubs below the grass that the trouble starts.
So what can you do to get at those?
Well, forget the old rolling technique; unless you know a) where the eggs are and b) when they’re about to hatch, you could simply damage the lawn. It’s much better, once again, to call in the professionals with their special chemical treatments. Your routine aerating and scarifying, however, is also helpful as this interrupts their feeding.
It’s the same with chafer beetles; it’s the grubs that cause the damage, and these ones can live unnoticed in the lawn for years. So with all of these squidgy pests, the best remedy is to prevent them from choosing your lawn by keeping it healthy with your own year-round care programme.
And finally, birds and squirrels. Birds – they’re not a real pest, just a bit of nuisance when they scratch around in the lawn. But that does mean they could be doing you a favour by letting you know you have a problem with chafer grubs or leatherjackets! Squirrels on the other hand can be a real bother as they dig around in the turf. But what can you do? Erect an electric fence around the garden? I reckon there comes a point when we all have to accept that ultimately we share our gardens – and our lawns – with many other beings. Take it as a kind of compliment!
You may be interested in more modern biological alternatives to chemical pest control. I talk about these alongside traditional methods in my book, Modern Lawn Care. And remember, there’s a good chance that for every ‘pest’ you see, there is another one being eaten or scared away. Now, that’s something to ponder as you sit in the deckchair enjoying your cool drink….