Mole Cricket Damage and Control
Mole crickets can cause costly damage to greens. Ensure yours stay playable with these prevention and management tips.
November 8, 2021
Keeping Greens Pristine and Playable
Mole crickets reach maturity from late August through October, which is when most noticeable damage occurs from tunneling and feeding practices. Warm, wet weather leads to more feeding damage. Mole crickets have spade-like front legs, well equipped for digging- they look like moles, hence the name. They’ve got 3 pairs of legs, 3 segmented body parts, and a set of antennae.
Adult mole crickets are 1”-2” depending on species. They live in underground chambers, where the female digs to lay eggs. Females will typically create 3-5 chambers and lay 100-150 eggs, with around 35 eggs in each chamber.
Hatch timing depends on soil temperature; early warm temperatures bring earlier hatching, whereas cooler spring seasons delay hatching. Mole crickets have an immature growth stage from May-July, which is also temperature dependent. They feed during this time while turfgrass is rapidly growing so damage is less noticeable. In October, activity is sporadic due to fluctuating autumn temperatures. In winter, mole crickets move deep underground.
Mole cricket damage usually occurs in warmer climates, especially on the southeastern coast of the United States. They create irregularly raised burrows, which makes grass die and turn brown.
Another sign of infestation is that grass may feel spongy when walked on due to the detachment of turf from soil. You may see mounds of dirt scattered on the ground’s surface.
Determine whether your turf has mole crickets by pouring soapy water where mole crickets are assumed to be early in the season. Mix 2 fluid oz of liquid dish soap (Dawn is preferred for the health of the environment) and pour this mixture onto a 2 sq ft area early in the morning or late evening. If present, the mole crickets will surface within minutes. Irrigate well after applying the mixture. This will help you determine if there is a mole cricket infestation and their life stage. If there are multiple mole crickets emerging, slate the area for summer treatment. Map the infested areas, as mole crickets typically infest the same area yearly. This will help reduce insecticides used and will help efficacy of treatments.
Ensure you dethatch turf as it is actively growing. Mole crickets are attracted to turf with thick runners and undecomposed grass clippings on surface. Thatch usually occurs due to improper mowing and excessive water and fertilizer. Thatch also makes a great place for mole crickets to burrow during winter and feed in the spring.
The best time to treat is June and July as the damage is minor and mole crickets are still immature. Put down additional treatments in July through August as this is high activity season for mole crickets due to the soil moisture and temperature. If there is a dry season, water turf or wait until there is an inch of rainfall. Mole crickets dig deeper during dry season and the treatments will be less effective.
Moist soil encourages mole crickets to surface and feed on bait. You’ll need to consistently manage this program as weather and soil conditions constantly change. If activity is still high, re-treat during fall season. Effective treatment depends on stage of life and the season; the best treatment depends on the season when infestation is noticed and the maturity of the mole crickets.
Methods of Control
A non-chemical option is beneficial nematode, but this may result in a slower management process. Mole cricket baits are available also, which provides good control in spring and fall seasons when adult mole crickets are active.
Chemical insecticides provide the quickest control. Look for products with Bifenthrin as an active ingredient, such as LESCO Trivium-G. Chipco Choice is another widely used insecticide for mole crickets. Read all directions and follow manufacturer recommendations when applying insecticides as timing and application are important.
Start at SiteOne
If you suspect your greens have pests, contact your SiteOne Golf Representative, or stop by your local branch. For more information on control products for frequent pests in your area, visit the pest management section of our website.