We spend all winter dreaming about summer and the balmy days and nights gathered in the yard around the grill or chilling by the pool. But we forget about the underfoot pests that no one invited to the party. While our mild winters are a blessing, they make it easy for lawn pests to thrive. Here are the worst lawn pests in Virginia Beach and some reminders of how to control them.

Biting Flies

Deer fly
Deer fly. Credit: Christina Butler, CC 2.0.

From no-see-ums to deer flies and black flies, these winged menaces can ruin a good time when they enter the scene. Deer flies are a particularly bloodthirsty menace that arrives en masse in May. Wearing light-colored clothing and an effective repellent can keep them at bay, and some folks report success using CO2 mosquito traps outdoors. As with many other flying pests, minimizing any wet, swampy areas in your yard will discourage these nasty biters from coming on the scene.

Chiggers

If you’ve got chiggers in your yard, you’ll know it and be desperate to do something about it, ASAP. Chiggers like to hang out in moist, shady areas where vegetation is thick, so target these areas first. Make sure your landscape beds are free of weeds and leaf litter. Remove brush piles and prune landscape plants to manage overgrowth. Pruning trees to limit deep shade beneath will deter chiggers and is also healthy for the trees. Keeping a well-maintained lawn mowed short near landscape beds and wooded areas will help control the spread of these pests. If you have an infestation, contact your local extension office and only treat the areas where you’re certain there are chiggers.

Fire Ants

Fire ants
Fire ants, which slipped into the U.S. in the 1930s, have spread throughout the South and are slowly taking their bad biting habits northward. Credit: Marufish. CC 2.0

Also known as red imported fire ants (RIFA), these nasty, invasive pests have spread from Texas to Florida and as far north as Virginia.

Dr. Dini Miller
Dr. Dini Miller

They can pose a danger to small pets or children. If left unchecked, they can move into your home, so beware.

“This is a horrid, obnoxious pest that we do not want in Virginia,” says Dr. Dini Miller, an entomologist and the Virginia Cooperative Extension specialist on urban pest management. You’ll see their telltale mounds peeping up around your lawn as soon as it begins to warm up in spring. Miller adds that to an untrained eye, red imported fire ants and their mounds are difficult to distinguish from other ant species.

The most tried-and-tested routine for treating fire ants is known as a “two-step.” The first step is applying a bait treatment with a hand-held seed spreader to the entire yard during a dry spell. The second step is treating individual mounds. You can use chemicals or an organic drenching agent, such as orange oil mixed with water. If you make fire ant treatment a part of your Virginia Beach pest control routine, you’ll be able to curb spring infestations.

Fleas

These tiny jumpers are hard to see but impossible to ignore if you have them in your yard. While yard infestations are rare, when they happen, they can ruin an entire summer. Fleas don’t spread any diseases in Virginia, but their bites cause extremely itchy red welts. The first line of defense is spot-treating your pets in the warmer months. If you notice fleas outdoors, you’ll need to treat the lawn, doghouses, and under any decks or porches. There are various yard sprays designed for this, but if you want to control the issue naturally, you can mulch with cedar and use nematodes to spray your lawn. These tiny soil creatures will go to work beneath the grass, unseen. Clearing clutter and keeping a tidy lawn will also go a long way toward discouraging flea blooms.

Mosquitoes

While the buzzing of a determined mosquito in your ear can be annoying, these yard pests are more than a mere inconvenience. Mosquitoes in our region are vectors for disease, most notably the West Nile virus, dengue, and encephalitis. Wearing long sleeves and insect repellent can keep the bloodsuckers off your body. But controlling their population is the first step in avoiding contact. First, make sure there’s no standing water on your property — even the water in backed-up roof gutters can harbor mosquito larvae. Replace water in birdbaths weekly, and place goldfish or gambusia fish in ponds or water features. You can also treat water reservoirs with “dunks” that contain Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a nontoxic bacteria that kills mosquito larvae.

Ticks

Most of the ticks in Virginia are creepy, but deer ticks carry some serious diseases, most notably Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and anaplasmosis. Most ticks hang out in wooded areas, but any yard frequented by wildlife such as deer can end up with a tick population. Keeping grass and landscape plants trimmed and tidy will help minimize tick habitat. If a tick bites you, remove it carefully so that the head is intact, and preserve it in rubbing alcohol in case it needs to be identified. There are anti-tick lawn treatments available, but they should only be used in extreme cases.

With such beautiful warm months in Virginia Beach, it would be a shame to miss even a minute of outdoor time. By following a few guidelines and taking precautions, you should be able to soak up the sunshine without interruption by the many yard pests that call this seaside paradise home.

Main image credit: Grass, Jeff Meyer, CC 2.0