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Leather jackets or Why Your Lawn is Dying in Patches
- Published: Feb 19/2020
- Last update: Jun 29/2021
- 5min read
- Views: 1,172
As passionate gardeners, we know that there are lots of struggles and challenges when it comes to maintaining a beautiful lawn. In most cases, the problem stems from crummy soil and lack of sunlight, however sometimes it can be due to a pest infestation. For example, have you noticed the appearance of any brown patches on your lawn? If so, that could be due to a very common lawn problem present in the UK at the moment, the leatherjacket grub.
So if you:
Leatherjackets (Tipula spp in latin) are the larvae of the crane fly, also known as daddy-longlegs. They (the larvae) have greyish-brown elongate tubular bodies with a usual length of 30 mm. The insects have no legs or obvious head, for that matter. You can mistake them for cutworms or chafer grubs, however, upon close inspection, you’d notice the mentioned insects have recognizable heads and legs.
The life cycle of the leatherjacket goes as follows: crane flies emerge from the soil in huge crowds during late summer. The lifespan of such flies is around fifteen days as their main purpose is to mate. Once the adult crane fly lays its eggs on the ground, the larval forms, known as leatherjackets, burrow deep into the soil and wait till the coming summer to resurface. Once fully grown, daddy-longlegs emerge from the ground and can be seen around England between April and October. They often lay their eggs within the first 24 hours and give life to a new generation of larvae.
Leatherjackets are one of the most common causes of lawn diseases across the UK and a big problem for lawn enthusiasts and gardeners. They feed on grassroots and crops, and well, the consequences are dead grass and brown patches on the lawn.
The first sign that you have a leatherjacket problem is birds pecking the surface. Even if they are a garden pest, daddy-longlegs are a valuable food source to many birds like rooks and crows, and other animals. Birds leave lots of small holes in the lawn in an attempt to drag out some larvae, which also leads to additional damage.
The second sign as we said above is yellowish grass and brown patches on the lawn. In places with distant plants, like vegetable gardens and pots, the first sign of an attack is the unexpected death and fading of the plants.
The most active season with the most damage is spring when the leatherjackets are fully grown and start feeding again. Also, the damage is more severe if the autumn has been wet and mild.
If you notice these unusual circumstances, make a few small holes under the infected area. Leatherjackets are often located in stressed areas, such as shady and wet patches, or the lawn edges.
Lift back the turf and if you see 3-4cm long grubs of a black or greyish brown colour, yes, you have leatherjackets in your lawn.
The best time to control the leatherjackets in lawns is in the larvae stage, not flies. There are various ways to treat and control a leatherjacket infestation. The most important thing is to kill all the living larvae in the lawn. You can do that by picking them by hand or with the help of biological agents.
Depending on how bad the leatherjackets invasion is and the condition of your lawn, you have two options – to repair or replace the lawn.
If the damage is not that severe, repairing it is the best decision, and you have the chance of eliminating the problem. If this is your case, follow the steps listed below:
If there is no rain, make an effort to water your lawn regularly, and in a couple of weeks the grass will grow, and the lawn will get a lush appearance.
If your lawn is completely destroyed by leatherjackets and the birds feasting on them, you might consider replacing it entirely. So, here are the steps you should follow:
Cut, scarify, aerate and fertilize your lawn frequently, so it is thick and hard to penetrate for Crane flies.
Regularly check the soil and plants for signs of leatherjackets and encourage the birds’ population with bird boxes and feeders.
Prevention is always better than treatment and dying grass, so apply the leatherjacket control product (nematodes) seasonally as a preventive measure. Remember that the eggs can’t be controlled, so don’t be tempted to apply the product too early, before the adults have set their eggs and they have been already hatched.
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