Integrated Pest Management for Insects

Insects love lawns. It’s the unwanted pests such as grub worms you have to watch out for since they can cause extensive damage to your lawn by feeding on grass roots.

Integrated Pest Management, also known as IPM, can be a fantastic approach to keeping insect infestations at bay. This broad-based, sustainable lawn care philosophy and practice is built on proactive measures - monitor, track, prevent - that aim to suppress the problem while minimizing risks to people and the environment.

Under the IPM approach, it is important to use less drastic, harsh chemicals and only when absolutely needed as those chemicals will affect your soil’s health, which can cause the pest problem to return.

HOW TO USE INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT FOR INSECTS

While the best defense against insects, or any pest, is a healthy lawn, you can use IPM as a complement to key lawn care basics in order to spot a potential problem before it becomes a full-scale infestation.

  1. Monitor – Regularly inspect your lawn and look for the action thresholds you’ve set or those that are recommended for common insect issues in your local area. Example: 15 nymphs and adult chinch bugs per square foot of turfgrass.
  2. Track – Use a notebook or spreadsheet to keep track of when you inspected your lawn, what insect activity you saw, their population size, where they were in your lawn and what treatment actions, if any, you took.
  3. Prevent –  Use available bio-options to prevent insect infestations in your yard. This includes nematodes, tiny worm-like organisms that can control certain pest populations like grub worms. Other pest prevention methods include utilizing naturally controlling biological agents such as predators and parasites that will prey on the pests you don’t want in your lawn. Think ladybugs, spiders, ants and some non-stinging wasps. You can also treat infected areas directly with bacteria strains such as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).
  4. Control & Evaluate Reviewing what pest control measures you took, when and to what effect is an important step in an IPM for insect prevention and management plan, so you can best understand effectiveness and evaluate what additional preventive measures, if any, should be taken.

Something to Know: Different insect pests are managed differently, so it’s important to identify the exact cause, i.e. the type of insect. Depending on the suspected insect pest, you can perform a drench test to detect the presence of adult and larval insects that feed below the soil surface. Otherwise, you can scout for problematic pests by looking at your lawn’s root system and soil, where larvae will be.

PRO TIP: Getting your soil tested is the best way to ensure that your soil is getting the water, oxygen and nutrients it needs to be the grass-growing powerhouse nature intended it to be. Because a healthy, strong lawn is a lawn that is naturally resistant to pests.

If an existing lawn is susceptible to frequent and severe insect damage, such as chinch bug damage on a St. Augustine lawn, you should consider completely renovating the lawn with a different grass species or an improved cultivar resistant to the problematic pest.

Additionally, you can consider planting insect-repellent herbs, plants and flowers in your yard to complement your IPM practices.