Identifying Lawn Pests

The key to effective control is correctly identifying lawn pests.

Here are descriptions and symptoms of the most common lawn pests.


  • Description: Light tan to brown caterpillars with 3 yellow, orange, or dark brown stripes down their backs. Length ranges from ¾ to 2 inches. Adult moths are tannish-gray and fly at night or on overcast days.
  • Symptoms: Circular or irregular shaped patches of chewed off grass.


  • Description: Adult is small weevil (beetle), 1/8 inch long, gray to black color, and has a long snout. The larvae, which are responsible for damage are white, legless grubs with an orange-brown head.
  • Symptoms: Billbugs feed on grass roots, causing small circular patterns that turn yellowish and brown. Dead sections of the grass will lift easily from the soil. Sawdust like debris can be found in the crown and around the roots of the damaged grass.

Chinch Bugs

  • Description: Adults are small, 1/5 inch, with black bodies and white wings. Young chinch bugs are similar in shape to the adult, but are red with white stripes on their back.
  • Symptoms: They suck the juices out of the stems, crowns, and blades of grass, leaving large, circular patches of yellow to brown damaged turf.


  • Description: Cutworms are moth larvae. These caterpillars are plump, brown, black or gray in color, and almost always curl up into a tight circle when disturbed.
  • Symptoms: Cutworms eat the roots, which causes dead brown spots to form in round and irregular patches. Cutworms are difficult to spot because the damage they cause looks similar to many other diseases, spilt gasoline, or use of too much fertilizer in an area.

Greenbugs (Aphids)

  • Description: Tiny (1/16 inch), light green, softbodied, almost transparent insects.
  • Symptoms: Greenbugs suck juice from the grass blades while injecting a poison into the plant. They leave rust colored patches of grass that turn brown and die. These patches start under trees and spread to sunnier sections of the lawn.

Sod Webworms

  • Description: Mature sod webworms larvae are ¾ inch long grayish caterpillars with black spots. You'll probably spot the beige adult moths first, as they fly up from the lawn as you mow. The moths do not damage lawns. However, at night, during the spring, you'll see the moths flying in zigzag patterns, dropping their eggs across the lawn. These eggs develop into voracious caterpillars, which devour grass blades at night. At night, you can see them with a flashlight.
  • Symptoms: In late spring, small brown patches appear in the hottest and driest part of the lawn. By midsummer, these 1-2 inch spots become large dead patches. Infested lawns look their worst by July and August.

White Grubs

  • Description: Plump, whitish worms with brown heads. Fully grown larvae range from ½ to ¾ inch long and have three sets of small legs near the head.
  • Symptoms: The lawn will have irregularly shaped brown patches, generally occurring in the late spring or early fall. The affected sections will roll back like a carpet. You may see skunk, raccoons, or birds digging up the turf to feed on them.

If you have a hard time identifying lawn pests or don’t want to be exposed to pesticides, have a local lawn treatment company do it. I like how you can sign up online for a free estimate.

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