Loathesome Leatherjackets!

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Cranefly species Tipula oleraceaYou will surely have noticed the multitude of crane flies (or daddylonglegs) about at the moment, but did you know that they can cause real problems in our gardens too?

Crane flies are the adult flies of the leatherjacket larvae, and they emerge to lay eggs in turf and on soil surfaces from mid-August to October.

A few weeks after they have been laid, these eggs hatch into young leatherjackets, which begin feeding in earnest on the stem bases of lawn grasses and other plant roots. They feed throughout the Winter and, when they’re large enough (any time from late Winter to mid-Summer) they become damaging lawn pests, and can also kill small plants in vegetable plots and flower beds.

What are the symptoms?

You can tell you have leatherjacket problems if:

  • Your lawn develops yellowish/brown patches which then die – rule out other lawn diseases by simply lifting a piece of affected turf to check for larvae. You’ll find tube-shaped bodies with no legs or head – they’ll be brown/grey in colour and up to 30mm long.
  • Stems of plants in flower beds and vegetable plots are killed through damage at soil level – check just below the soil surface for larvae.
  • You have lots of small round holes in your turf – these will be created by crows, magpies, starlings and rooks looking for leatherjackets to feed on.

Dealing with the problem

There are a couple of ways to deal with these pests:

Our favourite is to soak the lawn with water, cover the area with sacking or black polythene and leave it overnight. When you remove it the following day, large numbers of grubs will have made their way to the surface and will quickly be picked off by hungry birds!

There is also a biological control you can use, the pathogenic nematode Steinemema feltiae, which when watered into the turf or soil will infect the larvae with a bacterial disease. Best used as a preventative method, the nematode should be applied any time through September to early October.

We have a good range of products to deal with a wide spectrum of pests and diseases – so visit us in-store for friendly, expert advice on how to win your garden wars!

 

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