Mole crickets are strange-looking pests that often go unnoticed until it’s too late. Why? Because they burrow underground into their mole cricket tunnels. The damage can harm your lawn, and treatment timing is essential. This article will walk you through how to get rid of mole crickets, spot them, and test for them if you’re unsure whether you have a mole cricket problem.
What Are Mole Crickets?
Mole crickets are one to two inches long in their adult form with claw-like front legs and a gray-brown, almost black color.
Mole crickets are insects that have three different life cycles–– egg, larval/nymph, and adult stages. Nymph-stage and adult mole crickets overwinter and re-emerge once the soil temperatures rise again.
Shortly after re-emerging, mole crickets begin to mate. Female mole crickets burrow deep into the soil, about 10 inches down, and lay eggs (between 2 and 40) in an underground mole cricket tunnel. Male mole crickets die soon after mating, whereas females will lay up to 200 eggs in their lifetime.
There are three different species of mole crickets that are most commonly found in the southeastern United States.
- Tawny mole crickets are observed all throughout Florida and North Carolina to Louisiana.
- Southern mole crickets are more widespread because they can be spotted from North Carolina to Florida to Arizona.
- Short-winged mole crickets are typically found in southern Florida and southern Georgia.
How to Get Rid of Mole Crickets (Synthetic Options)
When you’re considering treatment for mole crickets, remember that the best time to treat them is either as soon as you see damage from them or in June or July.
Note: Always remember to keep chemicals out of reach of children.
Both liquid and granular forms of insecticides are commercially available to control mole crickets. Nymph-stage mole crickets are the most likely of any stage to be affected by the insecticides because they are still immature and close to the soil surface. Most insecticides require you to apply water to your lawn after application, but read through the package instructions thoroughly before using.
When applying insecticides to the yard, ensure the product is labeled for mole crickets. It’s illegal to use an insecticide (or any other pesticide) against a pest it’s not intended for.
Pro Tip: It’s easy to fall into a habit of using the same product once you know it works. But mole crickets can build resistance to some treatments when you continually use the same product. To eliminate that happening, alternate classes of insecticides by checking the active ingredients or use a combination product with a couple of different classes of insecticides.
Mole cricket bait is a mix of grains and toxins you spread throughout your yard, especially around its borders, to destroy a mole cricket population. Within a few days, you should notice a decrease in mole crickets as they consume the bait. To avoid the bait washing away, ensure the forecast is clear of rain for a few days before applying the mole cricket bait.
How to Get Rid of Mole Crickets (Organic Options)
Beneficial nematodes are microscopic worms that live in the soil. They invade destructive pests and kill them from the inside out by releasing bacteria. They do not harm beneficial insects (such as bees) and are safe for use around people and pets.
The beneficial nematode species to use against mole crickets include Steinernema carpocapsae, Steinernema riobrave, and Steinernema scapterisci.
Neem oil is a naturally occurring pesticide that you can spray on your flowers, lawn, or garden. It not only kills mole crickets, but it also stops them from coming back again because of its repellent properties.
Apply neem oil at dusk or dawn to avoid harming foraging bumblebees. Neem oil can suffocate these beneficial insects, so it’s best to avoid peak buzzing hours.
Signs of Mole Crickets
Not sure whether you’re dealing with mole crickets or some other common pest? Here are some signs you should look for on your lawn that signify mole cricket damage.
- Disturbed soil is one of the main indicators of mole crickets. The soil gets disturbed as they use their spade-like front legs to burrow into the soil to make tunnels. The disturbed soil might look like mounds.
- Since the soil is being disturbed, another sign of mole crickets is dead patches of grass near the disturbed soil. These insects eat away at the grassroots, destroying the turf.
- Your turfgrass might also feel spongy when walking on it. Why? Because the mole crickets are detaching the grass roots from the soil as they eat away at it, giving the ground a loose, spongy feel beneath your feet.
- Although chirping doesn’t always signal mole crickets, still take notice when you hear chirping noises coming from your lawn. Male mole crickets chirp when mating.
- The destruction from mole crickets occurs at night in late spring or early summer. However, the damage might not be immediately apparent because that’s the peak growing season for warm-season grasses.
How to Test for Mole Crickets
Mole crickets aren’t easy to spot since they live underground in tunnels, but you can quickly draw them to the soil surface. To see these strange-looking insects and test for them, you only need dish soap and water.
Combine two tablespoons of dish soap and two gallons of water. Pour your mixture around a 2-square-foot section of your yard. Evaluate how many mole crickets rise to the surface within a few minutes of pouring the mixture (although, if you do have mole crickets, they’ll likely come to the surface instantly). If more than two mole crickets appear, then your lawn may have a problem.
Remember: After you’ve tested your lawn with dish soap, thoroughly wash the soap off your lawn.
What Attracts Mole Crickets?
Certain warm-season grasses such as Bahiagrass, Bermudagrass, and St. Augustinegrass are most susceptible to mole cricket damage.
Mole crickets are also drawn to lawns with thatch build-up because it can harbor extra insects, which the southern mole cricket especially enjoys.
How to Prevent a Mole Cricket Problem
You don’t want to fight against a mole cricket infestation every year, so take the time once they’re gone to make sure they’re gone for good. Some ideas to prevent a future mole cricket problem include:
- Neem oil
- Continuous monitoring: You’re aware of the signs and sounds of mole crickets–– now you can be on alert for any mole cricket activity. If you spot new activity, treat it right away.
- Keep thatch at a minimum: With regular dethatching, you eliminate the other insects that mole crickets like to eat.
- Test soil: Test your soil to see if it lacks any vital nutrients. A healthy lawn is less susceptible to pests.
- Limit your outdoor light usage: Mole crickets like bright outdoor light, so when you limit or eliminate bright outdoor lights, you’re lessening your chance of inviting mole crickets.
FAQ About Mole Crickets
Mole crickets could pinch you with their front legs, but that’s the extent of their harm to people. They’re not venomous or harmful to people, just a nuisance to your lawn.
No. Even though mole crickets are in the same family as crickets, they aren’t talented jumpers. Mole crickets burrow underground as their method of transportation.
Soapy water is only good for drawing mole crickets to the surface as a test to see if you do have a mole cricket problem, not for a treatment method.
When to Call a Professional
Mole crickets can be sneaky to fully get rid of because of the weather and soil conditions. Sometimes, it’s easier to leave it to a pest control company to handle the job.
Since thatch build-up can be enticing for mole crickets, keeping your thatch within the normal range is essential. If you don’t own a dethatcher or you don’t want to rent one, connect with a lawn care professional to handle it for you (and your lawn’s other maintenance needs).
Main Photo Credit: Pixabay