Lawn Pest of the Month: How one remarkable person is making inroads in managing Bermuda grass mites

Lawn Pest of the Month: How one remarkable person is making inroads in managing Bermuda grass mites

As you explore your course, you notice an area of ​​general decline. The grass is yellow and weak. You look at it, think it’s pressure and move on.

But Craig Weyandt, the supervisor of… Anchors in a hawk’s nest In Vero Beach, Florida, supervisors say, especially in the Southeast, they shouldn’t be so quick to ignore warning signs of something even more destructive — bermudagrass mites.

As the name indicates, these microscopic pests — also known as bermudagrass mites — suck the plant sap from bermudagrass varieties. The damage stunts the growth of stems, causing the leaf sheaths to swell and causing a witch’s broom effect.

“It will start out as an area of ​​general deterioration,” he says. “(The grass) is weak, kind of yellow. You really have to look down at the leaf blades to notice the mutation.

He says symptoms tend to appear when daytime temperatures range between 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Low grass is a sign of stress, but it is also a sign of Bermuda mites. A clear sign of Bermuda mite damage is that the grass has stopped growing. (Photo: Craig Weyandt)


Weyandt cleared a patch of weak, thin grass in the spring of 2013.

“When I got down and looked at it, I could see the appearance of this transformed witch’s broom on the grass,” he says. “I said to my assistant, ‘These are moths on the trunk,’ and he said, ‘That’s impossible.’”

Weyandt’s assistant supervisor connected a coin-operated microscope to his computer to examine some samples. Sure enough, the assistant and Weandt saw small, round eggs in the grass.

Weyandt says he tried to manage the infestation of bermudagrass mites by mowing infested areas last and disinfecting equipment. The challenge in controlling mites is the pest’s short life cycle and how easily it spreads.

“These mites can be spread by equipment, they can be spread by foot traffic, they can be spread by golf cart traffic,” he says.

Weandt estimates that Bermuda moth eggs can go from egg in the leaf sheath to adulthood in 5 to 10 days.

“Even if you kill an adult, you probably haven’t killed an egg. After a week or two, you’ll have a whole ‘nother hatch,'” he says.

Weyandt says he’s watched Bermuda moths tear through the Southeast at breakneck speeds.

“I can find it on every hole on the two golf courses the Moorings Club owns. I can go to the golf courses of my friends who don’t think they have it and find it,” he says. “Conditions have gotten worse, and we’ve watched it develop throughout the Southeast.”

(Photo: Craig Weyandt)

(Photo: Craig Weyandt)

Control methods

Control methods are a work in progress, Weyandt says. Scalping, removing leaf clippings, and disposing of clippings is one of the options he learned in lawn school.

“Ideally, you collect the insect at all its life stages and remove it from the host,” he says. “This is really unrealistic. If you’re talking about something you have on 40 acres, what am I going to do with 40 acres of grass clippings?”

He says tree cutting is another popular cultural control. While some products contain a mite label, Weyandt says there is a lack of information about the best application times and prices and whether or not to use a wetting agent.

“Manufacturers tell me they get the best control in the fall, but I don’t have any visible mites in the fall, so how do I know where to treat them,” he asks. “Nobody wants to cover up and waste pesticide applications. We’re making inroads as we go.”

To help experts diagnose and treat damaged turf, the University of Florida has created a tool Bermuda mite discussion forum on Facebook.

Weyandt says he’s seen promise with the insecticide spirotetramat, which appears to help restore grass.

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