Insects are a major nuisance for homeowners, golf course superintendents and turfgrass growers. In an ongoing partnership with the University of Georgia, NG Turf allocates space on their sod farms for scientists to run insect trials. Their findings lead to deeper knowledge across the industry and more effective management of harmful insects within the state and potentially the region.
Shimat Joseph, an assistant professor of entomology (the study of insects), is currently studying billbugs at NG Turf.
Measuring only 3/8 inch as adults, billbugs are small but destructive. They are difficult to detect, and if seen at all, they are usually spotted walking across driveways and sidewalks in early spring or fall.
The female billbug burrows into the grass stem to lays eggs. After hatching, the larvae feed inside the grass stem. When they become too large, the larvae fall to the ground and feed on the grass crowns and roots, killing the plants and leaving brown patches in the turf. In addition to killing patches of grass, the pests also inhibit turfgrass growth.
“We have mostly seen the problem in zoyzia grass, but I’m sure it’s also in Bermuda grass,” Joseph says. “Zoyzia grows slower, so any damage drags development, especially in the springtime.”
Billbugs and Climate
Billbugs have been studied more thoroughly in the Carolinas and Florida. Since these states have slightly different climates, other species may be present in Georgia and the bugs may have unique habits, possibly indicating alternative control methods or schedules.
“Billbugs are a major problem,” Joseph explains. “We’re trying to understand when the adults are active, how many generations are in our area, and what different species are out there. Those things are poorly understood in Georgia.”
Joseph and his team visit the testing sites at NG Turf each week, collecting bugs and with them important data. “We also did an insecticide efficacy trial last year, although we didn’t see any differences in all the insecticides we applied, so we need to do more work.”
Integrated Pest Management
Joseph says that the ultimate goal from his team’s work is integrated pest management. “We have to integrate different tactics that include insecticides, but we also need to look into fertilizer management and biological control agents in the grass that could keep the population down.”
Better understanding of insects allows for more effective management. When the right chemicals are used at the right time along with nonchemical solutions, Joseph points out that in addition to more thorough pest control, the grower’s costs are reduced and the environment is exposed to fewer chemicals as well. Everybody wins.
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