Summer Lawn Insects beginning to Show-up

Theresa Friday
Horticulture Agent
Santa Rosa County Extension

The long, hot days of summer means they you are likely to encounter greater insect populations. Careful routine scouting and recognizing damaging insects and their beneficial predators can help reduce the need for applying insecticides.

Chinch bugs

Chinch bugs love St. Augustinegrass lawns. The adults of this destructive insect are only about 1/5 of an inch long. They are black with what appears to be a white “X” across their backs where their wings fold over. The immature nymphs may be pink to orangey brown with a single white line across their backs.

The older nymphs (left) look similar to the adult (right). Photo Credits: Theresa Friday, Santa Rosa County Extension

An indication of an early infestation is a subtle yellowing of the leaf blades.  This is quickly followed by a thinning of the canopy and eventual death of the turf.  These insects are somewhat unique in that they prefer hot sunny areas of the lawn over shade so their injury symptoms generally appear in an open area first.

To scout for these tiny insects in your lawn you will need to part the turf canopy to the soil surface along a line where there is a change from damaged yellowing turf to healthy green turf. They move rather quickly, so keep an alert eye for their scurrying back into the turf.

Carbaryl (Sevin®), cyfluthrin (Bayer Advanced Powerforce® Multi-Insect Killer), lambda-cyhalothrin (Spectracide® Triazicide® Insect Killer Once & Done!) and permethrin are labeled insecticides for their control.

Mole crickets

Mole crickets are not nature’s most beautiful insect specimens. Adults are odd-looking light brown crickets. The front legs are short, flat, and shaped like miniature shovels well equipped for digging in your yard. The immature insects, or nymphs, look the same as the adults, just smaller. Both, however, feed on the grass roots.

Mole cricket Photo Credits: Theresa Friday, Santa Rosa County Extension

Walking across your grass may give you a hint to an infestation. The sod will have an unusual fluffiness to it. Closer examination will reveal holes in the ground about the size of a pencil. Small burrowing trails can also be seen.

However, we always want to confirm the presence of mole crickets. Mix two tablespoons of lemon liquid dishwashing soap in two gallons of water in a sprinkling can, and pour the solution onto a two by two foot section of affected turf. If two to four mole crickets emerge within four minutes after applying the soap solution, insecticide use may be justified.

For more information on how to treat for mole crickets, review a University of Florida online publication at

Sod webworm

Whenever small brown moths fly up as you mow, caterpillars are not far behind. The moths are there laying eggs and the caterpillars show up two to three weeks later.

Sod webworms eat leaf blades leaving a “notched” appearance Photo Credits: Theresa Friday, Santa Rosa County Extension

Young caterpillars chew notches along the edge of the leaves. This creates a ragged appearance that may be hard to notice at first. Mature caterpillars eat a lot before they pupate and consume patches of turfgrass down to the crown. Because the turf looks scalped so quickly, people think that the damage occurs “overnight.” Several caterpillar species can be turfgrass pests, including the tropical sod webworm, the fall armyworm, and the striped grass looper.

Caterpillars can sometimes be seen, along with their frass, just on the surface of the soil Photo Credits: Theresa Friday, Santa Rosa County Extension

For more information on lawn caterpillars and your control options, visit the University of Florida “Lawn Caterpillars” online publication at or call your local Extension Agent.

Consider Re-doing Old Weedy Lawn

Larry L Williams
Horticulture Agent
Okaloosa County Extension

I’ve seen people use herbicides to control weeds in an old, declining lawn. Then, with all the weeds gone, the lawn’s owner suddenly realized that he or she had no lawn left. Sometimes the best solution is to start over. Many older, thinning, declining, weedy lawns need to be reestablished. As lawns decline and thin, the weeds move in.

Weedy lawn that needs renovating Photo Credits: Larry Williams

When you reach the point where there is less than sixty percent desirable cover, reestablishment should be considered.

In the process of redoing a lawn, attempt to determine why the lawn declined and correct mismanagement practices that were contributing factors in the lawn’s demise.

Common causes for lawn decline:

Soil compaction – Mowing equipment, vehicles and foot traffic (from adults, children and pets) all result in the soil becoming compacted within a lawn. Compacted soil results in less water and oxygen getting to the lawn roots and less than favorable growing conditions for the roots.

Nutrient imbalances – Routine fertilization can result in some fertilizer elements building up to excessive levels while other elements may be lacking. It’s common to find high levels of phosphorus in older lawns. Phosphorus does not leach readily even in our sandy soils. Other elements such as potassium leach readily. Over time, we’ll end up with too much of some nutrients and too little of others, which contribute to growth difficulties and possible decline in our lawns.

Tree competition – Trees and larger shrubs can compete with a lawn. As a tree gets larger with time, it becomes more competitive with lawn grass. The tree’s demand for water and nutrients increases as it becomes larger. Its root area becomes more extensive and it progressively produces more shade. Lawns usually thin significantly in association with older, large trees and shrubs.

Root pests’ numbers may slowly build to damaging levels as a lawn ages. Some common examples include nematodes (microscopic roundworms), soil inhabiting fungi such as Gaeumannomyces (take-all root rot) and ground pearls (a scale insect found in soil).

Improper lawn maintenance practices may be a contributing factor in the decline of an older lawn. Common contributing factors to a lawn’s demise include routinely mowing too low, excessive fertilization and irrigating incorrectly.

Sometimes herbicides are only a “band aid” approach when dealing with an old, mismanaged lawn.

Managing Trees Before a Hurricane

Carrie T. Stevenson
Coastal Sustainability Agent
Escambia County Extension

One of the first instincts of many homeowners when they see a big storm in the Gulf is to start trimming limbs and removing trees.  The recent tornado devastation throughout the Southeast and Midwest has also caused many people concern about having a mature tree in their yard.  While it is true that falling trees and limbs can cause significant damage to a home and property, it is wise to fully evaluate one’s landscape before making an irreversible decision. Trees are crucial for providing shade (i.e. energy savings), wildlife habitat, stormwater management, and maintaining property values.

Downed trees in a row along a hurricane-devastated street. Photo Credits: Mary Duryea, University of Florida

University of Florida researchers Mary Duryea and Eliana Kampf have done extensive studies on the effects of wind on trees and landscapes, and several important lessons stand out.  Thanks also to Pam Brown, former Horticulture Agent from Pinellas County, for compiling many of these tips. Keep in mind that reducing storm damage often starts at the landscape design/planning stage! 

  • Select the right plant for the right place.
  • Plant high-quality trees with central leaders and good structure.  Branch attachment angles can affect weather a large branch will split from a tree.  Wide-angle attachments are much more stable than narrow.
  • Trees that have had regular structural preventive pruning are less likely to fail than neglected trees. 
  • Monitor pines carefully. Sometimes there is hidden damage and the tree declines over time. Look for signs of stress or poor health. Check closely for insects. Weakened pines may be more susceptible to beetles and diseases.  Longleaf pine often survived storms in our area better than other species.
  • Trees with decayed trunks are very dangerous in winds.  Disease causing decay can come up from the roots or enter through improper pruning cuts. Remove hazard trees before the wind does. Have a certified arborist inspect your trees for signs of disease and decay. They are trained to advise you on tree health.  To find a Certified Arborist go to:
  • Trees in a group (at least five) blow down less frequently than single trees.
  • Trees should always be given ample room for roots to grow.  Roots absorb nutrients, but they are also the anchors for the tree. If large trees are planted where there is limited or restricted area for roots to grow out in all directions, there is a likelihood that the tree may fall during high winds. 
  • Construction activities within about 20 feet from the trunk of existing trees can cause the tree to blow over more than a decade later.
  • Plant a variety of species, ages and layers of trees and shrubs to maintain diversity in your community
  • Post-hurricane studies in north Florida show that live oak, southern magnolia, sabal palms, and bald cypress stand up well compared to other trees during hurricanes.  Pecan, water and laurel oaks, Carolina cherry laurel and sand pine were among the least wind resistant.  For a full list of trees and their hurricane endurance, please visit  
  • When a tree fails, plant a new one in its place.

Correct Time to Harvest your Summer Vegetables

Eddie Powell
Horticulture Agent
Walton County Extension

The key to eating home grown delicious vegetables, is selecting the correct time to harvest. Below are some of the easiest ways to identify the correct time to pick your most common summer veggies.

A Locally Gardener Harvesting Vegetables at Dragonfly Field Farms in DeFuniak Springs, Florida. Photo Credits: Kendra Zamojski

Snap Beans: Pick them before you can see the seeds bulging. They should snap easily into two. Check daily. It doesn’t take long for beans to go from tender to tough.

Corn: Usually 3 weeks after the silks form, they will turn dry and brown. The kernels should exude a milky substance when pricked.  

Cucumber: Cucumbers race to the harvest with zucchini. Check daily and harvest young. Timing and length will vary with variety. The fruits should be firm and smooth. Overripe cucumbers can be very bitter or pithy, even before they start to turn yellow.

Eggplant: Slightly immature fruits taste best. The fruits should be firm and shiny. Cut rather than pull from the plant.

Muskmelon (cantaloupes): The general rule of thumb is that the color should change to beige and the fruit will ‘slip’ from the vine when lifted. You should also be able to notice a sweet smell when ripe.

Peas: The pea pods should look and feel full. Peas are sweeter if harvested before fully plumped. Peas really need to be tasted to determine if they are sweet enough.

Pumpkins: Once the pumpkins have turned the expected color and the vines are starting to decline, check to make sure the skin has hardened enough that poking it with your fingernail will not crack it. You don’t want to pick your pumpkin too soon, because it will stop turning orange once its cut, but don’t leave them out if a hard frost is expected.

Squash: Pick young and check often. The skins should be tender enough to poke your fingernail through. 

Tomatoes: Harvest tomatoes when they are fully colored and slightly soft to the touch. Gently twist and pull from the vine.

Watermelon: The white spot on the bottom of the melon should change to a deep yellow when ripe. Some people can hear a change in the sound made when the melon is thumped with the finger. It should make a hollow sound when ripe, but this is a skill that must be developed.

So enjoy and share your gardener’s bounty, happy harvesting.

Gardening in the Panhandle Summer Issue

Alex Bolques
Editor, Horticulture Agent
Gadsden County Extension

As we enter the second half of the year, July is typically hot and humid.  You may also expect frequent afternoon thunderstorms, as we have also entered into Florida’s rainy season.  Remember to stay hydrated while working in the garden and protect yourself from harmful ultraviolet radiation (sunlight).

Last month, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued new rules on rating sunscreens.  While these will not take effect for another year, (two years for small sunscreen manufacturers), the rule helps to clear up confusion about which product to use.  According to FDA, a broad spectrum SPF 15 product, if used as directed with other sun protection measures (see product label), reduces the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging, as well as helps prevent sunburn.  As a general rule, sunscreen should be applied twenty minutes before going outside and reapplied every two hours or after swimming or sweating. 

In this issue, you will learn about some of the easiest ways to identify the correct time to harvest your summer vegetables, tips on how to manage trees in the landscape to reduce windstorm or hurricane damage, lawn care considerations, cicada killers, Ganoderma butt rot on palms, and use of buttonbush in the landscape.