Could an increase in wildlife activity be a sign of a lawn pest?

18th May 2020

If visiting wildlife has been taking more interest in your lawn than usual, it could be a sign of unwanted activity beneath the surface.

Turf professionals at Lawn Master outlets around the country are reporting a spike in the sightings of Leatherjackets, the larvae of Crane Fly, in the last few weeks.

Ian Stephens from Lawn Master Nottingham and Lincoln said that the last time he saw such a huge number was while working as a golf course manager back in 2007. “At the time where I worked in Lincoln there had been terrible flooding. The number of Crane Flies was so bad we had to wear dust masks while cutting the fairways. Huge waves of them were continually flying up and over the mowers,” he recalls.

Undoubtedly the cause of the current spike is the record wet winter we experienced. Leatherjacket infestations are generally worse on heavier and wetter soils after a mild autumn, conditions which favour the eggs and newly hatched larvae.

They bury deep into the soil over winter, returning towards the surface in late spring/early summer where they pupate and hatch into Crane Fly. Most of the time, the first sign of a problem is when magpies, crows or flocks of starlings descend on the lawn. Leatherjackets are also a favourite of hedgehogs, foxes and badgers. If you noticed a lot of Daddy Long Legs flying around in the autumn, the problems below the surface could be building up.

A good way to see if you might have a problem is to thoroughly soak an area of the lawn, then cover it with a sheet for a day or two. When lawns are flooded the Leatherjackets come to the surface in high numbers. Keep an eye out for brownish/grey grubs around 3cm long with no visible head. They can be quite difficult to spot.

Watch Tim Parker from Lawn Master West Sussex & South Surrey investigate a Leatherjacket infestation on a lawn in his area.

If you see Leatherjackets on the surface or a significant increase in bird activity or animals digging, please call your local depot as soon as possible. Leatherjackets damage lawns by the feeding on the root of the grass plant causing dead patches, but often more significant damage is caused by the creatures searching for them. If you call us sooner rather than later, a simple treatment can be applied. If left too long, a full repair is often required.

Our nationwide network of turf professionals have years of experience in being able to spot the tell-tale signs of Leatherjackets and other turfgrass pests and diseases. They will be pleased to advise you on the best course of action.

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