Many people treat their lawn with an insecticide when they see mole crickets in the spring or at the first sign of a brown area in their lawn. What they don’t understand is the biology of this pest.
Mole crickets spend the winter as adults in the soil. As temperatures warm in late February and March, adult mole crickets emerge and begin to mate. Male mole crickets construct a chamber in the soil and chirp to attract female crickets. Attracted females fly to the males. After mating, males die and females fly to a suitable area for egg laying. Mated females begin tunneling and laying eggs in the tunnels. They lay about four clutches of eggs in different areas, averaging 35 eggs per clutch. Female crickets die shortly after laying their eggs.
Use of insecticides during early spring is not recommended because adult more crickets are not easily killed, they cause minimal lawn damage during the mating and egg laying process and reinfestation from subsequent flights is likely.
The best time to treat for mole crickets is during mid June through July. This will be when all the eggs have hatched but before the nymphs (immature mole crickets) are large enough to do much damage. Proper timing of the insecticide application is very important to achieve control.
If you are not sure if mole crickets are present, you can find out with a soap solution. Mix 1½ fluid ounces of a lemon scented liquid dishwashing soap in two gallons of water in a sprinkling can or bucket. Pour the soapy water over an area approximately four square feet and count the number of mole crickets that emerge. It only takes several minutes for mole crickets to crawl to the surface after the soap treatment if they are present. Repeat the process around the yard where you suspect mole cricket problems. If you flush an average of two to four crickets per site, treat the lawn with an insecticide. Follow up with spot treatments if any crickets escape the first insecticide treatment. But don’t treat at all if there is no evidence of mole cricket activity.
There are a number of products on the market for mole crickets in home lawns. Look for products that contain the following active ingredients: bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, deltamethrin, fipronil, lambda-cyhalothrin or permethrin.
Before using any product for mole cricket control first identify the problem as mole cricket damage by using the soap flush technique. Then choose an insecticide that lists mole crickets on its label. And finally read the container carefully for use directions, application techniques, irrigation requirements and precautions.
Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent, Okaloosa County