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Tiny Insects You Can Not See Eating Your Lawn Alive

June 18, 2014

This time of year you see brown patches on your lawn and your first thought is, “it’s the heat.”  But if your lawn has been getting water, there’s a good chance it’s probably insects eating your lawn alive.  Lawn moths flying from your grass when you mow is a sure sign of trouble just around the corner.  These tan-colored moths are about a quarter to a half inch long and fly in a zig-zag pattern over the lawn, especially in the evening.  The moths do not damage your grass, however they lay eggs for sod webworms and cutworms that will cause your lawn to thin and turn brown.

Lawn Moths are easy to see when they fly from your grass in a zig-zag flight pattern.

Lawn Moths are easy to see when they fly from your grass in a zig-zag flight pattern.

The good news is you can protect your lawn with Turf Builder SummerGuard.  Just one application will take care of lawn-damaging insects as well as ticks and fleas.  And, it gives your lawn a special summer feeding.

In honor of Throwback Thursday, one of my old TV commercials shows how to protect your lawn from summer insect attacks.  My “friends” used to give me a hard time about not being able to get out of the way of the sprinkler at the end of this 12-year old TV commercial.  I just told them I was a slow learner because that sprinkler got me every time the director said, “OK, let’s do another take.”


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  1. Joe permalink

    Hey ashton my front lawn has a area that gets full sun and the rest gets part sun part shade because of a large tree. the grass is in great condition but every year around this time the area that gets full sun starts to turn brown. it starts off in small paches then the hole area get a light brownish look. i make sure the lawn is watered properly so i was wondering if it is sod web worm. i don’t see a lot of moths flying around when i cut the lawn but you do see 1 or 2. the part in the shade doesn’t really have this problem. the lawn usually turns back more green after about a month. I had grown the lawn from scratch a few years ago with scotts turf builder sun and shade mix. i live in ontario, canada and the scotts turf builder with summer guard is not sold here. i was wondering if you have any suggestions of anything i can do to prevent this from happening next year and the best thing to do to bring the grass back as quick as possible. i just put down a application of turf builder with 2% iron. thanks for you help.

    • Hi Joe
      Thanks for telling me where you are located as this really helps. I am going to give you three possible causes. First, this time of year there are a couple of lawn fungus problems that show up in sunny areas that first look like small patches that end up touching each other. These are Red Thread, Dollar Spot and Leaf Spot. Feeding your lawn will help remedy this. Second, lawn damaging insects like sod webworm, chinch bug and others attack mainly in sunny areas and not shade. I do not really have a Canadian product to recommend to you, however feeding will help your lawn. Lawn insects are less of a problem where you are compared to more southern areas. And third, the sunny area of your lawn may not be getting enough water during dry periods. Place a rain gauge or straight sided glass on your lawn when you water to determine how much is going down. You are shooting for a half inch twice a week during periods of no rain. This helps to get the moisture deeper to encourage deeper root growth. Hope this helps.

      • Joe permalink

        lawn fungus was the other thing i was thinking it could be, so interesting to here that the 3 funguses you mentioned show up in sunny areas. I will definitely look more into this.
        Thanks for your reply.

  2. Hi Joe
    For Red Thread look for a tiny thread-like red growth coming out of some of the grass blades as they begin to turn brown. For Dollar Spot look for a white, bleached looking spot on individual grass blades that has a reddish border. For Leaf Spot look for a tan to brown target-like spot on individual grass blades. All of these symptoms show up prior to the grass plant turning brown and becoming straw-like. Feeding helps your lawn get past these problems until favorable weather conditions shift that favor the fungus. Hope this helps.

  3. Joe permalink

    One more thing. I talked to somone at a garden center and they said that it might be possible to treat lawn fungus with a garden fungicide that contains sulfur or one with copper. It is made to treat fungus like powdery mildew and other garden plant fungus. After reading what you said and looking at some pictures online I think it could be leaf spot so my question is do you think a product for the garden could work for the lawn or do you think it might do more harm than good. I know that it will probably go away by itself but if there is somthing i can do to get rid of it quicker or prevent it from happening again that would be good.

  4. Hi Joe
    I think I would skip a treatment right now and count on the Turf Builder and weather to help your lawn recover. The good thing is you planted a blend of grass species and varieties and only some of them are susceptible to this fungus. Ultimately the stronger of your grasses will survive and your feeding will help shift your grass plant population towards longer term survival.

  5. Joe permalink

    Ok thanks again.

  6. Bob A. permalink

    Hey Ashton,

    I live in northern Fairfield County, CT. I’ve noticed that you’ve mentioned in previous posts that cool weather/northern lawns should fertilize twice in the Spring and twice in the Fall. Why would we not want to put Summerguard down? And also, why would all of the garden centers up here market Summerguard if Scott’s does not recommend it? Not being critical, I’ve just always put down a Summerguard feeding and am curious if I should really skip it going forward. BTW, I put down Bug B Gon granules in May.

  7. Hi Bob A.
    For your area Turf Builder SummerGuard would be good as insects can be a problem. This is a special summer feeding that works well in your area. As to the confusing recommendations, for years we have suggested 4 or 5 feedings a year as the ideal schedule. If you were doing 4 in your area they would be: Late March/Early April, Late May, Late Aug/Early Sept, Late Oct. Turf Builder SummerGuard would be a good 5th feeding. Your Bug B Gon application in May gives you several months of protection, so following up with SuumerGuard would provide insect protection through the rest of summer. Hope this helps.

  8. Bob A. permalink

    Thanks Ashton, unfortunately we’re a bit behind with some feedings this year due to the Winter that would not relent, my grass did not start to show overall growth until the third week of April which is when TB w/Halts went down, normally it’s late March or early April as you suggest.

  9. Kevin permalink

    Hi Joe,

    I live in Chevy Chase DC and my lawn consists primarily of zoysia and turf grass. The lawn is well maintained, regularly fertilized with Turf builder and is generally green and healthy. However, over the past two weeks I began seeing several large areas of grass with a small white tops clustered together. This is not the large lolipop looking weed that blows away and is normally associated with dandelions. These areas have small round green leaves with the small round white top and seem to be spreading. What could it be and what product treats these areas?

    • Hi Kevin
      Not sure what weed you are describing. Based on your leaf description, I believe you should be able to control it with Ortho Weed B Gon MAX plus Crabgrass Killer. Hope this helps.

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