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Mole crickets have become our number one destructive insect pests on turf and lawns in united states. The cost of control and the impact of damage often is measured in tens of thousands of dollars per golf course in many areas.
Mole crickets are brown and about 1 1/4 inch long. They are covered with fine hair and have a soft, satin appearance. Their short antennae are barely noticeable, but they have two long cerci (stout thread-like appendages) that extend out from under the wings at the tail end. The hind legs of mole crickets are vaguely cricket- or grasshopper-like with only slightly enlarged femurs. The tibia of the front legs however, are greatly enlarged and the first segment of the front tarsi is broad, spadelike and equipped with four prominent, stout teeth.
There are two types (species) of pest mole crickets : southern mole cricket (Scapteriscus borellei Rehn and Hebard) and tawny mole cricket (Scapteriscus vicinus Scudder). The southern mole cricket feeds on a variety of organisms in the soil and causes mainly tunneling damage. As mole crickets tunnel through the soil, they uproot grass plants, which dry out and die.
This is a soil insect (feed at or slightly below the soil surface on roots, tubers and stems) that invades soil in pastures, gardens, field crops and turfgrass. Infestations are usually very spotty and localized. Mole crickets prefer sandy soil and are often found in golf courses and live in 1/2 inch diameter burrows. They are active at night and either tunnel just beneath the surface up to 20 feet per night when soil is moist in search of insect prey or come to the surface and run about freely.
Life Cycle: There is only one generation per year. Mole crickets have three basic developmental stages: the egg, the nymph or immature, and the adult. Overwintering takes place as either large nymphs or adults that can remain somewhat active throughout the winter. Winter damage is seen as short tunnel mounds. As the soil temperature rises in March and April, the crickets do more tunneling. Crickets that overwintered as nymphs finish their development into adults during the spring. In late March and early April, the adults begin to fly and mate. The adult males locate preferred sites to lay eggs and dig a small tunnel with an opening exposed to the surface. This is one reason why mole crickets seem to appear in the same location each year
This chamber is funnel-shaped and acts much like a megaphone for the males when they begin their calling. The male produces a soft toad like call for about an hour after sunset. This can often be heard on warm evenings in April. The call attracts the females for mating. Shortly after mating, egg laying occurs (end of April or early May). Mated females dig down 3 to 10 inches in the soil and lay a cluster of about 35 eggs in a small chamber. Females usually construct three to five chambers and lay a total of 100 to 150 eggs. The round, translucent and white eggs hatch between late May and July. Egg hatch requires about 20 days if the soil temperature is warm or a little longer under cooler soil conditions. The southern mole cricket may continue to lay eggs throughout the summer and hatch can occur in August and September. The males die after mating and the females die shortly after completing egg laying.
Mole cricket Eggs
Shortly after mating, the male dies. The inseminated queen then builds a small nest, lays a few eggs, and nurtures the developing larvae that soon hatch. When adult workers appear, they take over the function of caring for the queen and larvae, building the nest and bringing in food for the colony. Colonies may persist for 20 years or more.
The newly-hatched immatures or nymphs are small, usually about a 1/4 inch in length. As they grow, the nymph stage goes through six to eight molts similar to a snake shedding its skin. Small nymphs have no wings, but the larger nymphs have small wing pads. They continue to feed and grow through the summer. These insects are most destructive in late August through early October. the nymphs reach the adult stage in October. However, a few will overwinter as nymphs and develop into adults during the winter and spring
Damage: Mole crickets can damage plants by feeding at night on aboveground foliage or stem tissue and belowground on roots and tubers. Seedlings may be girdled at the stems near the soil surface, though some plants may be completely severed and pulled into a tunnel to be eaten. Mole cricket tunneling near the soil surface dislodges plants or causes them to dry out. Small mounds of soil are also pushed up. Tunneling reduces the aesthetic quality of turfgrass, interferes with the roll of the ball on golf courses, and results in reduced livestock grazing on severely infested pastures.
Management: Several methods are used to estimate mole cricket populations and assist in timing pesticide applications. One way is to rate the amount of tunneling damage that is visible. Tunneling is most obvious in low-cut grass or areas with minimal vegetation, and thus can be detected easily in crops, bahiagrass lawns and pastures, or bermudagrass fairways.The tunnels are most visible in early morning, when the dew is on the grass and the soil may be moist.
Mole cricket Damage
A more consistent but labor intensive method of sampling is a â€śsoap flush.â€ť Flushing is more effective in moist soil. Mix 1.5 oz (2 TBSP) of lemon liquid dishwashing soap in 2 gal of water in a sprinkling can, and pour the solution onto 3-4 sq. ft. of turf. If two to four mole crickets emerge within 3 minutes after applying the soap solution, insecticide use may be justified. Flushing with a synergized pyrethrin insecticide solution is equally effective.
Adult females can also be captured at night with commercially available electronic sound traps that mimic male mating songs. In addition, adult mole crickets are strongly attracted to lights during their spring dispersal flights.
If you want to control, you may wish to consult a pest management professional.
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