Learn How To Control Sod Webworms

Updated Jul 28, 2022
Photo Courtesy of FMC Professional SolutionsPhoto Courtesy of FMC Professional Solutions

Turf managers can tell what type of larvae is invading their turf by the unique physical characteristics of the damage caused. Sometimes larvae damage can be mistaken for disease or distress, so it’s important to know the differences between types of larvae for effective detection and control. 

One common larvae, the sod webworm, typically attacks Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, fine fescue and bentgrass through late September.

Dr. Bobby Walls, turf product development manager for FMC Professional Solutions, offers the following information about it:

Sod webworm larvae vary in color from gray or light green to tan or brown. A physical characteristic that sets them apart from other species is their spotted backs. These larvae will grow to reach a length of approximately 1 inch.

Areas of damaged turf first appear as small brown patches. These patches will often run together causing large and irregular-shaped damaged areas. The pests burrow in tunnels in thatch during the day and emerge at night to feed. The nighttime feeding habits of the sod webworm explain how serious damage often occurs before it is noticed. Blades are eaten back unevenly and may even be completely stripped off in patches. Another common indicator is large flocks of birds gathering on the turf area to feed.

Control & Detection Tips

A disclosing solution (soap flush) technique is a useful tool for monitoring and detecting these pests.

Sprinkle a mixture of two tablespoons of liquid detergent and a gallon of water evenly over a square yard of turf.

The soap will irritate the worms causing them to crawl to the surface.

The recommended treatment threshold for these pests is typically 10-15 worms in a square yard, after observing obvious damage to turf.

 Information provided by FMC Professional Solutions

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