If you see tiny moths dancing on your Sarasota lawn, you probably have tropical sod webworms. Yes, those tan-colored moths flittering over your St. Augustine grass (or any warm-season turf grass for that matter) are an indicator of existing worms or a hatch about to happen. You’ll need to act fast.
First, look for areas in your turf that look chewed on and are shorter than the rest. Then get down and spread the grass blades open to see if worm poop or actual webworms are present. Webworms are usually small and transparent, but they’ll look green from all the turf they’ve been eating. That’s right — these voracious little critters binge on your turf at night and sleep it off the next day. That’s why they fly up when you walk through the grass. You just woke them up from a sound snooze.
Still, you can’t take your anger out on them because it’s actually their offspring who are pigging out on your grass. Unfortunately, their larval stage is the most damaging part of their lifecycle. Females deposit eggs on grass blades at night, with eggs hatching in three-to-four days.
Fortunately, treatment is available. If you’re absolutely sure you’ve got tropical sod webworms, select a pesticide specifically labeled for it (ask your local plant nursery for help). Then spot-treat according to label instructions. Sod webworms are most active spring to fall, although they can be found year-round in South Florida.
How can you prevent sod webworms from happening in the first place? Keep your lawn healthy by mowing at the correct height and watering as needed (webworms prefer dry and hot grass areas). Also apply fertilizer if you choose to. And if you have newly established sod, pay extra close attention. It’s the webworm’s most favorite food of all.
If you live in an HOA community in Sarasota, Manatee or Charlotte counties and think your community’s turf is deteriorating, maybe you should go out for bid. Consider contacting ArtisTree Landscape Maintenance & Design at 941.488.8897. Or, contact Mike Casper at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll give you a full maintenance proposal that includes turf, tree and plant care.
Lifecycle photo: P.S. College of Agricultural Services