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June 19, 2017

Here is an interesting lawn problem that is quite rare, but seems to come up almost every spring here in Iowa.  People will call and say that they appear to have cigarette papers all over their lawn.  They usually do not see an insect associated with the problem and the question is, “what could possibly cause this?”   

The problem is caused by an insect called the Burrowing Webworm.  It is in the genus Acrolophus.  Other common names include Cigarette paper webworm or tube moth.  There are reportedly 65 species within the genus.  Like the more common Sod Webworm, the larvae live in a web-lined burrow just under the surface of the lawn.  In the case of the Burrowing webworm, birds feeding on the larvae pull out the webbing, consume the larvae and leave the cigarette paper-like webbing on the surface.  It is not usual to see hundreds of these on the lawn after birds have been there.  They disappear very quickly with moisture and the larvae are generally not seen because the birds ate them. 

While the larvae can feed on turf, they rarely do any serious damage to lawns.  Most common insecticides for surface feeders will kill them.  However, most of them are generally gone because of bird feeding when the paper-like burrow is observed and insecticides would not be recommended. 

I would like some more pictures of the papers.  If any one sees them, send the pictures to Nick Christians at


Picture of Cigarette paper-like burrow lining.  Courtesy of Laura Iles of the Plant and Insect Diagnosis Clinic at Iowa State University.



Picture of adult Burrowing Webworm from the web.  It is from New Hampshire Public Television. 



I received the following pictures from Gary McVay.  They are from St. Charles Ia, south of Des Moines.  They were taken the week of June 19, 2017.





In this picture the hole from which the larvae and paper were taken by birds is visible.

Here are a couple more from the Boone, Ia area from 6/23/17.




Here are two new ones from the Ames area, 6/27/17



Here are a few more from 6/27/17.  These are from Ida County.



Yet another one from the North side of Ames on 7/5/17




July 13, 2017

For the Blog from Dr. Donald Lewis

The annual cicadas have been buzzing in the trees for the past week, and right on schedule, and right behind them, come the cicada killer wasps. 

Cicada killer wasps are 2-inches long with black and yellow marking and orange wings.  Their size makes them look and scary but they are not a threat to people and pets.  But still people want to kill them because of their size.

Cicada killers are a solitary wasp. There is no colony as there is with honey bees, bumble bees and yellowjackets.  Each female wasp works alone to dig a burrow and provision in with paralyzed cicadas that become the food source for her offspring.  Solitary wasps are not aggressive and they can be tolerated, though most people choose not to!

The wasps that are randomly flying back and forth over an area are the male wasps defending their territory.  Only female wasps and bees can sting.  The males are harmless and the females are too busy working to pay any attention to you.

Cicada killer wasp tunnels may be 12 to 24 inches deep in the ground. Burrows are usually in bare soil and at an edge.  The transitions between sand traps and turfgrass or between flower beds and turfgrass are favorite spots!  There is only one generation per year and populations vary greatly from place to place and from year to year.

When cicada killer wasps cannot be tolerated, control is usually accomplished by putting insecticide dust into the nest opening at night.  Liquid sprays applied to burrows do not work well because they soak into the soil.  Dusts or powdered insecticides work better.

Read more in our online article at

Donald R. Lewis


Department of Entomology

Iowa State University

Ames IA 50011