- How to Get Rid of Earthworms in Lawns
- Damage from Earthworms
- Monitoring of Earthworms
- Management of Earthworms
- Small Mounds of soil throughout Lawn
- How To Identify Lawn Grubs
- Increased bird activity on your lawn
- Greyish-brown moths
- Brown patches in your lawn
- Spongy lawn
- How to treat lawn grubs
- All You Never Wanted to Know About the Grub Worm
- Damage caused by nightcrawlers
How to Get Rid of Earthworms in Lawns
Earthworms image by Ana Dudnic from Fotolia.com
Earthworms in lawns might be an indication of improper maintenance. According to the North Dakota extension service, night crawlers and earthworms can be a sign of lawns that are in need of thatching, raking and proper fertilization. Although some earthworms are good for the soil under the grass, too many can attract predators such as moles, skunks and raccoons. There are some chemical applications that will eradicate the earthworms, but correct lawn care generally will rid your lawn of any earthworm problem.
Remove the thatch from the lawn that has the excessive earthworm problem. Thatch is dead grass and other debris that lays on the soil surface just under the grass. This material is the food that the earthworms and night crawlers eat.
Attach the thatching blade to the lawn mower. Run the lawn mower in a single direction across the lawn. In other words, operate the mower in an east to west direction. This will pull up any unwanted thatch material from the soil surface.
Rake the material from the lawn. Collect into piles. Transfer the raked thatch to a compost pile. The rotted material, once fully composted, can be added back to the lawn in late winter for extra organic material. Run the lawn mower, with the thatching blade still attached, in a north to south direction to remove more dead material from the lawn. Close inspection will reveal if more thatching is required. The end result is to have bare soil exposed just below the surface of the grass.
Apply a lawn fertilizer suitable for your species of grass and climate. Consult your local home store or the agricultural extension service for their recommendations on fertilization and application rates. Various species of grass and climates will require different fertilizers.
Irrigate the fertilizer into the lawn. Maintain an irregular schedule of irrigation to the lawn. In most cases, watering the lawn on a weekly basis will increase vigor to the grass and aid in deterring earthworms from working under the lawn.
Apply carbaryl to the lawn in the prescribe dose according to the manufacturer’s labeling. This insecticide will kill many types of insects along with grubs and earthworms. The insecticide will have to be immediately irrigated into the lawn after application. Results will be seen as the earthworms, grubs and other insects will migrate to the surface.
When most people think about earthworms, they think of all the good that they do. Earthworms are very useful for fishermen who can bait their hooks with them, but they are also very useful to plant growth. The presence of Pacific Northwest earthworms shows that the soil is healthy. Earthworms eat dead plant materials and produce earthworm castings, which are nutrient-rich waste products that are one of the best sources of natural fertilizer.
For a farmer or gardener, the presence of earthworm castings is a cause for celebration. It shows that the soil is in wonderful condition, and the plants will thrive due to the fertilizing ability of the earthworm castings. However, the problem comes about when earthworm castings are found in a homeowner’s yard. The presence of earthworm castings can actually damage an otherwise healthy lawn.
The problem with excessive earthworm castings is that they are actually too full of nutrients. When there are too many earthworms in the soil that a lawn grows from, their castings will actually start to burn the lawn due to the overabundance of fertilizer. That is when it is time to practice some proper pest control by using some earthworm management techniques.
Another pest control issue that worms cause for lawns is the presence of worm mounds. Worm mounds are mounds that are created by lots of worm activity in the soil. These mounds can leave a less the desirable aesthetic appearance that can detract from the look of a home’s outdoor areas.
Worm Pest Management
When the presence of worms is causing a problem for homeowners, the first thing to consider is doing nothing. Remember that the worm castings are actually good for the soil. They may cause yellow or brown patches on the grass, but those castings will eventually work their way down into the soil. This will lead to a healthier soil and eventually a healthier lawn.
However, sometimes there are simply too many worms in a yard. There are ways to use pest management to reduce the damage caused by worms. The first step is to stop watering the yard so much. The abundance of moisture in the soil is like heaven for worms. Soil that is dried out will become less hospitable for worms.
It is sometimes a good idea to get rid of excessive worms. Earthworm removal can be easily done by using an electrical device. These earthworm removal probes send a mild electrical current down into the soil. The current drives the worms up to the surface of the soil. Once they are on the surface, the earthworm removal process can begin. Save the worms for fishing or sell them to the local bait shop to make a profit.
Earthworm castings can be dealt with by raking them when they are dry. It is also possible to get them into the soil more quickly by using a roller. It is also a very good idea to leave grass with a high cut when it is mowed to hide the presence of unsightly worm castings. This is one of the smartest methods of earthworm management.
The Key Is to Live in Harmony
The best way to handle pest control and pest management of earthworms is to remember that they are beneficial to the soil. Try to avoid removing earthworms as much as possible. Always remember that earthworms are a sign that the soil is healthy, and rarely should they be a cause for pest control panic. If you have any questions about earthworm management or any other pest control issues, contact the experts at Western Exterminator.
Source(s): University of California
Earthworms encompass a large group of soil dwelling worms in the phylum Annelida. The most common species found in turf are in the family Lumbricidae including the nightcrawler, Lumbricus terrestris. These worms are brownish-red and grow up to a few inches long. Their bodies are cylindrical with about 150 segments. In turfgrass, earthworms are primarily seen at night or when they are driven out of the soil by watering. Where high populations of earthworms are present, small mounds, or castings of fecal matter, are deposited on the soil or lawn surface.
Earthworms may be found in soils under all turfgrass species.
Damage from Earthworms
Earthworms are not pests of turfgrass and do not feed on turf. Earthworms swallow soil as they burrow and feed on microorganisms and partially decomposed organic matter in the soil. Their role in a lawn is primarily beneficial. Thatch buildup has been associated with reduced earthworm populations. Burrowing helps to mix some of the nutrients in the soil together as well as decompose organic matter in the soil. Earthworm activity improves aeration, increasing water and nutrient movement through the soil. Earthworms deposit castings when they ingest soil and leaf tissue and emerge from the soil surface to remove fecal matter. Castings are rich in nutrients and organic matter and can provide some benefits to turfgrass plants. However, when casting piles become large, they may be considered unsightly and over time may make the lawn lumpy. Occasionally, moles may burrow in lawns with high earthworm populations to feed on them.
Monitoring of Earthworms
Look for small mounds or castings on the soil or turfgrass surface. Earthworms often rise up to the soil surface or sidewalk after a rain or irrigation.
Management of Earthworms
Rake castings to remove them. Power raking with a thatching rake adjusted so the teeth will drag through mounds but not down to the turf crowns will be more effective than hand raking. Adjust your irrigation schedule so the top layer of soil dries out between irrigations. This will drive worms deeper into the soil. Turf mowed at the higher end of the recommended height may hide castings. Earthworms have some natural enemies such as ants, centipedes, birds, snakes, toads, carabid beetles, and nematodes. Do not apply pesticides to control earthworms.
Are you concerned about a bumpy, rough area in your lawn? Does a close inspection of your lawn reveal a miniature replica of the Blue Ridge Mountains ? Such areas can be annoying, difficult to mow and even dangerous for anyone walking or running across them. What causes these bumps? And, more importantly, how do you get rid of them?
There can be several reasons for bumpy lawn conditions. Sometimes the repeated freezing and thawing conditions of winter and early spring move the soil up and down. In other cases, older and more established lawns become rough and uneven over time as the turfgrass gradually thins out. Thinning lawns can be caused by shade, insect damage, and poor maintenance practices. Re-establishing a healthy, thick turf will help improve this situation.
Another possible cause of bumpy and rough lawns is the presence of earthworms. In such cases, it is the movement of earthworms in the soil and the castings that they leave behind on the soil surface that cause the roughness. Castings are the result of the ingestion and excretion of soil and plant litter by the worms. You may also notice that the activity of earthworms is greatest in the spring and fall when soil moisture conditions and temperatures are conducive to their activity.
The problem of earthworm “damage” to turfgrass areas is a complex one. On one hand, a population of earthworms is usually an indicator of healthy turfgrass. On the other hand, the bumps that sometimes occur as a result of earthworm activity are unsightly and can make it difficult to mow your lawn without scalping the bumpy areas. These spots may also be a safety concern if you have trouble walking over them.
In a lawn, earthworms work as natural aerators. They turn over the soil in a steady and methodical manner without any real disruption to the turfgrass. Their holes improve the movement of water and nutrients into the soil and make them more available to the lawn. In addition, earthworms are some of the best decomposer organisms that exist in the soil. They decompose thatch and, by doing so, help recycle nutrients and make them available to the grass again.
Generally speaking, it is desirable to have a healthy population of earthworms in your lawn. If earthworm activities become problematic for you, however, there are a few things you can do. The best techniques to alleviate earthworm “damage” include basic, good lawn care practices. These practices are detailed in UGA Extension Bulletin #773, “Lawns in Georgia.” Good lawn care practices include the following: a basic fertilization schedule, aeration of the lawn and over-seeding to fill in thin patches.
Another basic lawn care practice that can help control the bumpiness caused by earthworms is proper irrigation. Generally, earthworms only become a nuisance when the soil is extremely moist and they must surface for air. This is why they are often seen in the spring as the soil thaws and soil moisture is high. Irrigating less frequently and deeply during the growing season will keep earthworm populations deeper in the soil profile so that they are not creating bumps and castings on the surface. On the other hand, frequent and shallow irrigations can encourage earthworms to stay near the surface. It is also important to keep in mind that earthworm populations are harmed by the use of certain lawn care pesticides and there is not any pesticide products labeled for their control. If you use these products, understand that that harm may be done to earthworm populations.
- Recent Posts
Latest posts by Mary Louise Flint (see all)
- Earthworms in Lawns – September 23, 2013
Small Mounds of soil throughout Lawn
I have been getting several questions about tiny mounds of granular soil covering small or large areas of the lawn. The mounds will be clumped pellets of soil that look similar to small ant mounds. If you have seen this, then you may have a thriving population of earthworms.
Often earthworms leave small mounds or clumps of granular soil (castings) scattered about in the lawn or garden. The castings may be seen as a nuisance when they are in a high abundance. This situation is often noticed in fall, winter or spring when warm season grasses are dormant or grow slowly. Without constant growth of grass and mowing to knock them down, the castings brought to the surface are more noticeable.
As earthworms tunnel through the soil, they ingest the soil and digest any organic matter in it. Organic matter is taken into their burrows and is broken down. Although earthworms are most numerous in the top several inches of soil, they also work in the subsoil, bringing mineral rich soil from below to the surface. This adds to the supply of nutrients available to the plants.
Besides incorporating organic matter into your soil, earthworms are good manufacturers of fertilizer. Castings have a nutrient level and organic matter level higher than that of the surrounding soil. Each day they produce nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and many micronutrients in a form that all plants can use.
Earthworm tunnels help to aerate the soil. This allows more oxygen in the soil, which not only helps the plant directly, but also improves conditions for certain beneficial soil bacteria. Finally, the tunneling of earthworms provides access to deeper soil levels for the numerous smaller organisms that contribute to the health of the soil.
Earthworm activity in your soil is beneficial and should be encouraged. They help incorporate organic matter, improve the soil structure, improve water movement through the soil and improve plant root growth. Since earthworms are beneficial, control measures are not required. Once warm season grasses begin to grow actively they will cover the soil and castings. Earthworm populations will be higher in moist areas. Core aerating and topdressing lawns with thin layers of sand over time may improve surface drainage and help reduce earthworms.
Earthworms may be the culprit of bringing some unwanted guests into your landscape. Earthworms are included in the diet of armadillos and moles. Be sure to check your lawn for grubs, mole crickets and earthworms to determine what is being eaten if you have an invasion of either of these pests in your yard. Except in extreme cases, it is best to let the earthworms do their work in the soil and allow your lawn to reap the benefits of such work.
Bill Tyson is the coordinator for Effingham County Cooperative Extension of the University of Georgia. Email him at [email protected] or call the Extension office at 754-8040.
Have you noticed mud balls on your lawn lately? Do you know what are they? Are they a cause for concern? And what’s causing them?
When the soil under a lawn has a healthy population of earthworms sometimes small mounds of soil or ‘mud balls’ can be found on the surface of the turf. Mud Balls are the castings from the previous night which have now passed through the earthworms and have come to the surface through tunnels created below the surface of the lawn.
These mud balls are most common during Spring and Autumn because of the prime conditions of soil moisture and temperature; perfect for earthworms.
Earthworm activity acts as a natural aeration of the soil beneath your lawn but there is also a down side. The mud balls can be quite slimy in texture because they contain natural secretions from the earthworm’s digestive system as well as soil. Allowing mud balls to lay on the surface of the grass will allow them to be smeared across the lawn during activities such as mowing, walking and playing. This can lead to a very muddy and slippery lawn; the castings also create a perfect environment for weeds to germinate and take hold during next Spring.
Lawn varieties like Sir Walter Buffalo are less susceptible to mud ball damage.
We don’t recommend using a pest control treatment to deal with earthworms since they do a fantastic job aerating and making the soil healthy.
A few ways that you can reduce the activity in a natural way:
Rake up and remove leaves that have fallen and use a catcher when mowing so that the grass clippings aren’t left on the lawn to increase the amount of organic matter and the moisture level in the soil below; dead and decaying matter on the lawn will encourage earthworm activity since it is a food source for them.
Assess the adequacy of the drainage for your lawn and reduce the amount of watering in periods with consistent rainfall since heavier clay and wetter soil will also encourage earthworms with their abundance of soil flora, fauna and bacteria.
Rake or sweep casts off the lawn using a stiff broom, rake or bamboo cane; probably only efficient if you have a small amount of mud balls or a fairly small lawn. Undertake this when the castings are dry to limit the possibility of smearing the castings and making a bigger mess.
Earthworms are actually a sign of a healthy lawn; they help in breaking down thatch, produce usable nitrogen in the soil and increase decomposition. In fact, 25% of a lawn’s seasonal nitrogen needs can be provided by five or more earthworms per square foot of soil.
As the moisture levels reduce, the earthworms will bury back down into the root system and continue on with the great work that they do; you won’t even notice them until the next time conditions are right for them to move closer to the surface again.
How To Identify Lawn Grubs
Increased bird activity on your lawn
One of the most easily spotted symptoms is an increase in bird activity on your lawn. These grubs make a great snack for the local birds and you’ll find them popping over to your place for lunch!
Small, greyish brown moths fly around looking out for the healthiest lawn to leave their eggs on, giving their larvae the best chance of survival. These moths can be seen flying around just above the grass normally around dusk. These moths lay their eggs en masse, and in 2–5 days these eggs become grub larvae. These caterpillars are the critters doing the damage as they spend between 18–24 days chewing through your beautiful lawn before becoming pupae and around 5–8 days later moths and so the cycle begins again!
Brown patches in your lawn
As your lawn recovers from the winter chill and spring sees your lawn becoming greener, especially after your spring fertilising, keep an eye out for brown patches that stay brown. You can lift some of the grass in the patched and if lawn grubs are the culprit you’ll find that the grass will roll up like a carpet, as it has no roots.
A spongy lawn can also be a good indicator of grub activity.
How to treat lawn grubs
So how do you fix it? If you suspect you have lawn grubs there are treatments available. There are plenty of pest controls available on the market. It’s good to keep in mind that it can take a while to break up the cycle so you want to look for something that is going to remain in the soil, like LSA Grub Guard. With other treatments a second application may be necessary. For more advice contact your local Lawn Solutions Australia turf supplier, and send those grubs packing.
If you’ve never seen a dew worm, do I have a mental picture to paint for you. Imagine the cute little red wrigglers in your garden, only reaching nightmarish proportions. Dew worms are worms the size of snakes, with their greasy, gummy bodies ranging from 10-30 cm long.
While worms are excellent to have in the yard for their ability to aerate the soil, dew worms (or night-crawlers), are far too much of a good thing. Active at night and early morning, when the lawn is wet (hence the name), they can churn a healthy lawn into a chaotic jumble of castings mounds and deep tunnels.
The Damage They Do
Dew worms thrive in old lawns, especially those with decades of accumulated thatch. Besides age, dew worms love shaded, sheltered, well watered lawns.
When you walk across your lawn in bare feet, does the ground under the grass feel like a miniature Western Front, complete with shell-holes and tossed mounds of earth? If so, you’ve probably got dew worms.
The mounds, which can be irritating both to walk on and mow over, are castings pushed up from the worms’ burrowing. While the worms won’t kill your lawn, severe infestations will make it almost impossible to walk and play on; they will effectively evict you from your yard.
Dealing with Them
Underneath the casting mounds, dew worms’ extensive tunnels can dip several meters below the surface. This inaccessibility, combined with their creepy size, makes them very hard to kill.
If you won’t be satisfied until every one of them is dead, you have a frustrating road ahead. My recommendation is to focus on controlling their numbers, and the damage they do, by keeping them underground. They’re also highly mobile and tend to populate blocks of houses at a time, often in older neighborhoods, so if you use chemicals to eliminate them, you are really only created a vacuum and encouraging others to move in. If you use cultural, preventative controls, you will make your yard less appealing on the long run.
Aerate your lawn in the spring and fall, and rake it out well. This will reduce the thatch and make the surface less appealing to worms overall. There are many companies offering the service or you can simply rent an aerator.
Don’t water your lawn in the evening, and only water it when needed. In a normal rainfall year, a healthy lawn actually needs little or no supplemental watering. If your lawn is patchy, top dress with fresh grass seed or, if it’s very unhealthy, consider tearing it up and starting again with fresh turf.
As with all slimy bellied creatures, dew worms hate crawling over abrasive surfaces (which is why they love wet grass at night). Sprinkle a generous layer of sharp sand over the affected lawn. While nonlethal, it will make them think twice about venturing to the surface.
If you insist on using chemicals, the active ingredient carbaryl is approved for use against dew worms. Most products containing carbaryl have, wisely, been banned, and the last product with it is called Sevin. Sevin will reduce your dew worm numbers, but even it won’t eliminate them. It is definitely not safe for animals, children, or pregnant women.
Please regard using Sevin as an absolute last resort (I don’t recommend it in any resort). You will effectively wipe out the entire ecosystem of beneficial bugs, fungus, and bacteria that have built up in your yard. If you use Sevin, expect a host of other pests to spring up, like aphids, because you’ve just nuked all their predators.
What’s Eating my Spruce Tree: Budworm & Sawfly
Summer Lawn Care
All You Never Wanted to Know About the Grub Worm
There is no reason to learn about grub worms, that is, except when they are causing havoc with your lawn. This Sod University blog discusses information about the grub worm so you know what you may be up against. However, if you are specifically looking to get rid of grub worms, be sure to take a look at our How to Get Rid of Grub Worms blog as well.
What is a grub worm? Where do grubs come from? A grub is actually not a worm at all, even though white grubs resemble little white worms. White grubs are actually the larval stage of beetles in the Scarabaeidae family, which includes the Japanese beetle, European chafer and June beetle.
Is there a predictable grub cycle? Adult beetles typically lay their eggs in June or July and, by August, those eggs hatch into larvae. The aftermath of their arrival is most felt in fall and spring. Grubs love to burrow all winter long.
What do grub worms look like? No matter the exact species, all white grubs are milky white in color with C-shaped bodies. They boast brownish heads and six spiny legs. They are small initially but can grow to 1 and 2 inches in length at maturity.
Why is a grub an enemy of sod or grass in general? Unlike earthworms that naturally aerate the soil, white grubs can quickly turn a healthy lawn into a patchy mix of dead and dying grass. The results of their devastation often resemble those created by severe drought.
What do grub worms eat? Grub worms love chomping on the roots of a previously healthy lawn. Even worse, those grubs attract moles, which then dig into a lawn looking for a grub buffet. The result: a lawn in deep trouble. Better still, grubs feed on the roots of trees in the spring and fall. Ugh!
Where do grubs live? Grubs love the roots of the grass!
Do grubs like lawns that are constantly irrigated? Lawns that are consistently watered can handle infestation better than drought-afflicted lawns.
Can grub worms ignored in hopes the problem can go away? No. It is best to treat your soil in advance of laying sod. Grub infestation needs to be dealt with immediately when recognized.
Damage caused by nightcrawlers
Mound created by earthworm Mounds of earthworm castings all across the lawn
Nightcrawlers and other earthworms are considered invasive species and damage forest floors. Never release any earthworm in a natural forest. If you use them for fishing bait, throw away any unused worms in the trash.
Nightcrawlers are beneficial to lawn health, but can leave behind a waste product called castings.
- They deposit castings at their burrow entrances forming cone-shaped mounds at the soil surface.
- Mounds do not harm the turf but this lumpiness can be a nuisance to home lawns, athletic fields and golf courses.
- Mounds are most common in early to mid-spring when nightcrawlers are first active.
- In late spring and summer, when weather becomes warmer, nightcrawlers move deeper into the soil and are not normally seen.
You may see nightcrawlers moving away from the lawn when the lawns are overwatered or after a heavy rainfall.
They become a nuisance when they are found in large numbers on sidewalks, driveways, patios, pools and other places where they are not wanted.