Florida’s summer weather creates an ideal paradise for bugs. The increased temperatures, rain, and humidity lead to an increase in insect activity – including your lawn and in your home. Checking your home and lawn is key to maintaining a pest-free environment.
Florida homeowners often spend a great deal of time and energy keeping their lawns lush and green all year long. However, even the most beautifully manicured lawn can have pests hiding in the grass. Recognizing problems before they get out of control is key to keeping your yard healthy and beautiful.
Tips for a Healthy Green Florida Lawn What can I do to protect my Florida lawn from pests this summer? Your Florida lawn requires particular attention during the summer to ensure the proper nutritional balance and to control both the weeds and insect intrusion. Stressed grass is more susceptible to pests and diseases than healthy grass. You can reduce your chances of insect infestation by mowing frequently but leaving your grass a bit higher (at least three inches to enhance the deep rooting process), use fertilizers sparingly, and avoid watering too often. When summer rains are frequent, you may need to reduce your watering schedule to keep the grass from becoming overly saturated.
Common Lawn Pests Found In Florida If your yard shows signs of damage, it is important to identify the problem before taking the appropriate steps to treating it. It is essential to monitor your lawn and grass weekly throughout the summer for signs of insects. Some common summer insects are listed below:
Fire ants are small, aggressive ants that live throughout Florida. They have dull red bodies and are relatively small in size. Fire ants interfere with outdoor activities and can harm wildlife and your pets. In Florida, fire ants are commonly found in open fields and lawns, preferring to nest in dry, flat, and sunny locations. They build rounded dome-like nests or mounds that can be as large as 3 feet wide and high. These mounds can damage mowing, harvesting, or electrical equipment. Typically they build their nest mounds in the ground near landscaped areas or structural foundations, as they prefer loose earth for mound construction. Ant mounds are unsightly and may reduce land values. Fire ants are least active during the hottest hours of the day. During the cooler part of the day they are very active and aggressive, they will repeatedly sting any intruding animal or person. They avoid darkness and shade, yet are incredibly resilient. If mounds remain undisturbed and the colony rapidly multiplies, fire ants may send additional queens to begin new mounds nearby. Large colonies can have up to 250,000 workers. These ants leave the colony in a massive mating flight. Keep an eye out for heavy ant trails around the walls, driveways, windows, fences, and throughout the yard.
Whiteflies are a severe problem that is facing Florida homeowners. These creatures develop rapidly in warm weather, making Florida summer an ideal time for infestation. Whiteflies get their name from a white, waxy substance that covers the wings and bodies of adult flies. The adult whitefly is very small – less than 1/16” long – and resembles a tiny moth. There are more than 75 types of whiteflies in Florida. Whiteflies can seriously damage host plants. The flies lay their eggs on the undersides of leaves, where the eggs hatch. Whiteflies feed by sucking the sap from leaves with their needle-like mouths. Both whiteflies and their nymphs pose a threat to plant life, as all stages feed on plant juices. As the whitefly drains off the plant’s juices the leaves dry out, turn yellow, and eventually drop from the plant. Whiteflies congregate in such large numbers, they are able to effectively drain off the plant’s source of water and nutrients, quickly damaging the host plant causing yellowing, stunted growth, wilting, leaf drop, and even plant death. Be careful, because leaves play host to eggs and other life stages of the insects, it is important that you do not allow any damage trimmed from an infested plant to come in contact with other plants because this can spread to the infestation.
Plants affected by the whitefly: The whitefly has a wide range of host plants, though different whitefly strains prefer certain plants over others. In all, over 500 plant species are affected by the whitefly. This list continues to grow as the whiteflies spread. Fruit and edible plants such as avocado, banana, citrus, mango, guava, plantain, squash, tomatoes, and others are typically affected. Several species of palm trees including King palm, coconut palm, sabal palm and other less common palms can also be affected. Some of the affected ornamental plants include azaleas, bird of paradise, gumbo limbo, bird of paradise, black olive, bougainvillea, buttonwood, fig (ficus), live oak, mahogany, hibiscus, poinsettia, sea grapes, lantana, live oak, wax myrtle and many annuals. Plant damage: Whiteflies cause visible landscape damage to trees, plants and shrubs. The most noticeable sign of a whitefly infestation are white spirals, combined with a build-up of white, waxy substance on bottom of the leaves. Often times, the build up is so great that plants are actually covered and can lose all their leaves. These stressed and weakened plants may fall victim to other insects & diseases at this point.
Other damage: Whiteflies produce an extremely significant amount of “honeydew,” a sticky, sugary honeydew excretion which causes the growth of an ugly sooty mold – a black fungus that grows on the insect’s excrement. This “honeydew” is the cause for many problems, as it sticks to vehicles, sidewalks and driveways, outdoor furniture, homes, etc. causing damage to car paint and leaving a sticky mess. The honeydew also attracts ants that drive off the natural predators of whiteflies. Control and prevention:
Be sure to check your plants daily for any sign of infestation. Check the undersides of leaves for whitefly eggs or larvae, as this is a good indicator of whitefly presence. If any evidence is found, take action immediately. The best course of action is to call a professional pest control that specializes in using a broad-spectrum insecticide that treats and removes whiteflies. These pests will not leave on their own; they are best treated by a professional and treated quickly.
Chinch Bugs Chinch bugs have black bodies, silvery wings, and antennas and are one of the most common yet damaging pests. Sucking plant juices from infested grass, these pests injure your lawn and can cause large yellow or brown patches to appear. Typically, most chinch bug damage occurs along driveways and sidewalks but can sometimes be found in open sunny areas in the middle of the lawn. One way to keep chinch bugs under control is to water the lawn infrequently yet deeply.
Chinch bugs can cause extensive damage on your lawn if infestations are heavy, so it is often necessary to seek professional help to eliminate them.
Grubs and Common Worms White grubs are the larvae of beetles and rest in a C-shaped position. Grubs and worms damage turf grass by feeding on the roots. Injured grasses will have uneven notches chewed along the sides of the blades. The first signs of infestation resemble drought conditions. Grubs can kill small plants and gnaw cavities in root vegetables. Heavy infestations of grubs attract other pests like raccoons, opossums, crows, ibis, and other birds, which make holes in the lawn and garden to feed on the grubs. Professional lawn spraying is the best solution. A lawn care professional will exterminate the larvae and eggs to prevent further damage.
You may notice insects swarming (flying) in and around your yard. Insects spread and mate this way. Fleas are also very common at this time of year. The most common flea problem we encounter is with the Cat flea. They breed in sand and dirt, and the hotter it gets outside the worse a cat flea problem can become. When a pest professional treats your lawn for some of these common pests, it also controls fleas and ticks in your yard as well.
INSIDE YOUR FLORIDA HOME
The summer rains and hot temperatures also make it easy for prolific foliage growth. As your plants grow out and touch the side of your house, ants and other pests are able to use the tree limbs as a bridge to your home. Trim tree limbs and foliage away from the house to reduce the chance of these pests getting inside. Yard debris should be bagged and properly disposed of to decrease harborage areas for insects. Insects need shelter, moisture and food. Your home provides all of these and without the presence of their natural predators.
Widely recognized as the top nuisance pest in America, ants are likely to make an appearance in many homes around Florida this summer. The common myth that seeing one ant indoors equals a full-blown infestation is not necessarily true. However, ants do cooperate by leaving an invisible chemical trail (pheromones) for other ants to follow once they locate a promising food source. If that food source is in your home, you can count on ant colonies developing. They can enter your home through the smallest cracks and invade your kitchen and your pantry. While most ants are considered a harmless nuisance, there are those that pose a serious threat to your family’s health and property. Carpenter ants can cause severe property damage as they tunnel through wood to build nests. The highly invasive crazy ant, can infest homes, recreational vehicles, and any laptop or smart phone left in its path. If you have an ant infestation, vacuum trails of ants, wipe them with soapy water, or spray with window cleaner. Locate entry points then caulk openings or plug with petroleum jelly. Put out bait stations or apply gel bait at entry points. Baits take time to work, so continue to clean up trails. If possible, identify the species of ant for more targeted control of the problem. Always call a professional for a targeted expert removal protocol.
Interior activity will probably be focused around the kitchen and bathrooms, or near any possible water source. If the bugs are swarming inside of your home, you could have an infestation problem. Limiting access for household bugs is the best way to prevent an infestation. Seal cracks and holes on the outside of the home including entry points for utilities and pipes. Keep tree branches and shrubbery well trimmed and away from the house. Keep basements, attics, and crawl spaces well ventilated and dry. Store garbage in sealed containers and dispose of it regularly. Replace weather-stripping and repair loose mortar around basement foundation and windows. Store fire wood at least 20 feet away from the house and five inches off the ground. Call Truly Nolen or Ask our Pest Expert for additional advice on control and treatment. Make sure your Florida Home is Truly Protected this summer!