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Lawn Pests

Expanded Question:

I live in northern South Dakota.  "Night Crawlers", are numerous in the area, and my yard seems to be a "hot bed".  I realize that they are good for my soil, but they create some really large "hills", if you will.  These deposits can actually get to be an inch or more tall.  Mowing what grass I have is treacherous, as I don't want to roll an ankle.  A little exaggeration there, but seriously, it is not a good time.  I have been told that a bleach solution (50-50 H2O) will bring them to the surface, and I can rake them up and dispose of them.  Is this my only solution?  Seems a bit drastic to me.  Again, I know they are only fertilizing my topsoil, but if I cannot enjoy my yard with them?  I would rather fertilize chemically, than continue stumbling in my yard.  I just bought the property last summer, maybe I should just start selling them to bait shops?


Answer:

This category is a complex of species that includes night crawlers, garden earthworms and red worms (Anellida: Lumbricus spp.). These animals are segmented terrestrial worms that normally inhabit healthy lawns with their presence seldom causing alarm. Earthworms are found in almost any soil which has adequate moisture and nutrients.

Damage symptoms: Very high earthworm populations may disrupt the roots of grass and plants in the lawn. The main concern to homeowners is the castings left on the soil surface that make the ground uneven and the lawn unsightly. The castings are evidence of worm digging activity because worms must eat their way through the soil and excrete the ingested soil on the surface. As these castings dry, they become hard and unpleasant to walk over.

Biology and life cycle: Earthworms are most abundant in moist heavy soil situations. Earthworms will migrate deep in the soil during the fall and return toward the soil surface in the spring. During the summer months, the proximity of earthworms to the surface depends upon the availability of soil moisture. Earthworms (Figure 9) are long and tubular. They have approximately 150 segments with the skin being covered with a secreted lubricating mucus. Each body segment possesses bristles that can be felt if the finger is rubbed against the underside of the worm. The worms also possess a distinctive raised smooth structure, the clitellum, about a third of the distance from the anterior end.  



At night during spring and early summer, earthworms will mate and deposit fertilized eggs within a cocoon on or near the soil surface. Each cocoon will contain from two to 20 eggs with an average of four. The cocoons are oval and approximately 1/8 inch long, with the eggs hatching in two to three weeks. Once hatched, the young worms begin tunneling and feeding in the soil.

Natural enemies: Earthworms are preyed upon by ants, centipedes, birds, snakes, beetle larvae and toads. They are also parasitized by species of protozoa, nematodes, fly larvae and mites. 



Sampling methods: There are no established methods of sampling for earthworms in lawns. The presence of earthworms can be determined by finding castings in the lawn or earthworms on the surface of the soil or sidewalk following a rain. Control is necessary only when the earthworm population develops to levels that damage the lawn or when castings severely roughen the surface of the lawn.

Cultural practices: Routine lawn maintenance schedules indirectly benefit worms. The healthier the lawn, the more attractive it is to earthworms. Worms, for the most part, benefit the lawn by recycling nutrients and aerating the soil. Excessive castings left by worms may be flattened with either a power rake or a weighted lawn roller when the surface of the soil is damp. Annual power raking each spring is often sufficient to destroy castings from season to season. THIS INFORMATION HAS BEEN RETRIEVED FROM http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/plantsci/landscap/e904-2.htm#Earthworm



Earthworms There are no lawn insecticides that list earthworms on the label of pests controlled. Publications from Ohio State University have listed the toxicity of the common lawn insecticides to earthworms. The only lawn insecticide that is listed as highly toxic to earthworms is carbaryl (Sevin). From this infomation the following control procedure is suggested: 

  

 

1. In early spring, lightly roll or power rake the lawn to remove old worm castings. 
  

2. Thoroughly water the lawn several hours before the application is to be applied. 
  

3. Apply liquid carbaryl (Sevin) insecticide at the label rate recommended for sod webworms.
       Evening applications are most effective. Do not water the lawn for several days after
       application. 
  

4. Repeat if castings continue to appear.

 




Earthworms There are no lawn insecticides that list earthworms on the label of pests controlled. Publications from Ohio State University have listed the toxicity of the common lawn insecticides to earthworms. The only lawn insecticide that is listed as highly toxic to earthworms is carbaryl (Sevin). From this infomation the following control procedure is suggested: 

  

1. In early spring, lightly roll or power rake the lawn to remove old worm castings. 
  

2. Thoroughly water the lawn several hours before the application is to be applied. 
  

3. Apply liquid carbaryl (Sevin) insecticide at the label rate recommended for sod webworms.
       Evening applications are most effective. Do not water the lawn for several days after
       application. 
  

4. Repeat if castings continue to appear. 



Wes, I've copied this information from the North Dakota State University Ag sheet for turf pests. It has been extracted from a bulletin at the site enclosed above.

Hope this can help you, otherwise, contact NDSU for further help.  You can also reach me again.



Best wishes,



George Manning

Consulting Entomologist

Pest Control Chicago

American Pest Solutions

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