Placed on the Web by the Center for IPM, NC State University.

Keys to Pests Associated with Turf and Their Damage

The two following keys supplement one another. Often symptoms of damage are more apparent than the pest itself. The purpose of the damage key is to narrow down the pest species by close examination of infested turf. Many pests cause similar types of injury, and it is often impossible to identify the pst on the basis of damage alone. The pest can then be more rapidly identified upon consulting the subsequent key to turf insects. When using the turf insect damage key, keep in mind that many turf problems are not caused by insects, but if insects are the problem, they should not be difficult to find.

Key to Turf Pest Damage

  1. Pest of man in association with turf (21)
    Direct problem with turf itself (2)

  2. Soil mounded over tunnels in the turf (3)
    Not as above

  3. Mounds 5 to 8 cm wide (MOLES)
    Mounds 1.3 to 2 cm wide (MOLE CRICKETS)

  4. Turf dug up in patches where grub populations are high (SKUNKS)
    Not as above (5)

  5. Small mounds of soil on turf (6)
    Not as above (7)

  6. Mound of soil glued together in compact mass (Fig. 1A) (worm casting) (EARTHWORMS)
    Mound of soil loose, not glued together (Fig. 1B)(ANTS, WILD BEES, CICADA KILLER WASP, GREEN JUNE BEETLE)

  7. Holes (burrow opening) in soil near damaged plants, plants cut off near soil line, pest most troublesome in early summer and early fall (8)
    No hole in soil near damaged plants (9)

  8. Burrow vertical and deep (BURROWING SOD WEBWORM)
    Burrow angled or nearly horizontal, not deep (SOD WEBWORM)

  9. Plants chewed on, severed near ground line, skeletonized, eaten around edges, or consumed completely (10)
    Plants yellowing, drying up or dying, but leaves not consumed by pest (15)

  10. Plants severed near groundline (CUTWORMS, SOD WEBWORMS, BURROWING SOD WEBWORMS)
    Plant not severed near groundline (11)

  11. Caterpillars feeding on turf (12)
    No caterpillars present (13)

  12. Problem in late summer or early fall only (Fig. 2A) (FALL ARMYWORM)
    Problem throughout the growing season (Fig. 2B) (ARMYWORM)

  13. Problem on turf during especially dry years (Fig. 3)(GRASSHOPPERS, SHORTTAILED CRICKETS)
    Problem in good years or grasshoppers and shortailed crickets not present (14)

  14. Puncture-like holes in stems and crowns; circular holes in leaves; damaged turf may be easily pulled up (BILLBUG GRUBS and ADULTS)
    No holes in leaves and stems (15)

  15. Turf yellowing in spots and dying out; white, frothy spittle apparent on stems (Fig. 4) (SPITTLEBUG)
    No white, frothy spittle mass (16)

  16. Turf yellowing in spots and dying out. When bottomless can is pressed firmly onto periphery of damaged area and filled with water, small black and white bugs (4 mm) float to surface (Fig. 5) (CHINCH BUGS)
    No chinch bugs present (17)

  17. Turf yellowing and dying out; difficult to pull from soil; small, pearl-like insects in soil below damaged area (Fig. 6) (GROUND PEARLS)
    No ground pearls (18)

  18. Turf yellowing and dying out; difficult to pull from soil; small brownish-purple or white (2 mm) insects on crown of plant (Fig. 7) (RHODESGRASS MEALYBUG)
    No rhodesgrass mealybugs present (19)

  19. Turf yellowing and dying out; difficult to pull from soil; no apparent pest (BERMUDAGRASS MITE, NEMATODES)
    Turf relatively easy to pull from soil (20)

  20. Irregular brown patches of turf; small mounds resembling ant hills, C-shaped grubs in soil (Fig. 8) (GREEN JUNE BEETLE GRUBS)
    Irregular brown patches of turf; roots may be destroyed and turf may be rolled up like a carpet; C-shaped grubs in soil (Fig. 9) (JAPANESE BEETLE GRUBS, MAY BEETLE GRUBS)

  21. Stinging (or threatening in appearance) (22)
    Not stinging (25)

  22. Wingless, brightly colored and velvety (Fig. 10) (VELVET ANT)
    Winged (23)

  23. Large (up to 32 mm); black and yellow; strong flyer (Fig. 11) (CICADA KILLER WASP)
    Smaller (24)

  24. Bluish black with yellow spots on abdomen (Fig. 12) (SCOLIID WASP)
    Yellow with black spots (Fig 13) (YELLOW JACKET)

  25. Small (2 mm), brown, compressed, biting pest (Fig. 14) (FLEA)
    Not as above (26)

  26. Flattened, leathery brown, biting pest (bit not irritating, up to 7 mm long) with 8 legs (Fig. 15) (TICK)
    Not as above (27)

  27. Very small; red; 8 legs; leaves itching welt especially where clothing is tight (Fig. 16) (CHIGGERS)
    Not as above (28)

  28. With hard covering over abdomen (29)
    Abdomen exposed at least at rear (30)

  29. Brightly colored, good flier, usually in bright sunlight on hard packed soil or pathway (Fig. 17A) (TIGER BEETLE)
    Brown or black, good crawler; usually in thatch (Fig. 17B) (GROUND BEETLE)

  30. With "forceps" at rear of abdomen (Fig. 18) (EARWIG)
    With "forceps" (31)

  31. Many legs, one pair per body segment (Fig. 19A) (CENTIPEDE)
    Many legs, two pairs per body segment (Fig. 19B) (MILLIPEDE)