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What's the Web Saying About Turfgrass: 8-27-10 Edition

August 27, 2010

This week brought a break from the rain and we were treated to cooler temperatures. It's looks as though things will heat up again next week. Until then, here are some turf and golf related thinks.

iPhone at Work: Certified Golf Course Superintendent. How does a golf course superintendent use his iPhone to get the job done and what iPhone apps help get him through his day? Here’s one superintendents answer and as a small token of thanks we’re sending him a $20 iTunes gift certificate.

Golf's biggest problem-Women may be solution. The overwhelming problem facing the golf industry is finding new players while retaining those who already play. Money and time have been spent to find a fix. Just not often enough to generate a pattern of growth rather than decline. The Right Invitation makes the case for additional investment in order to attract and retain women customers and that these women are the source of growth for the golf industry.

The History of Golf Course Superintendents. This is a great video for anyone that loves Golf. As a matter of fact, it is great even if you don't like Golf, but would like to learn some things that didn’t know.

Hey golf gods, what did Dustin Johnson ever do? This letter of complaint is for the gods of golf: Which one of you has Dustin Johnson ticked off? You've shown this kid no mercy. What next, the rack?

Nuisance ants on golf courses. Mound-building nuisance ants have become one of the most troublesome pests in golf course maintenance. This article provides an update on our current USGA-funded research project concerning biology and pro-active management of turf ants on golf courses.

Enemy Number One to Black Cutworms. Superintendents can feel alone in their battles to protect golf courses from the ravages of insect invasion. They are not - Mother Nature is on their side. University of Kentucky entomologist, Dr. Dan Potter, and his talented group of graduate students, investigate how natural enemies of turf insects can help limit turf damage to golf courses. One such enemy is a type of virus that attacks black cutworms-and it works.


Living with the Emerald Ash Borer: by Jeff Iles

October 7, 2009

While not an “official” resident of the state of Iowa, yet, the highly destructive emerald ash borer has been found within a stone’s throw of our northeastern border. And if you’re a pessimist or perhaps a realist, you might be convinced the insect is already here, but has managed to escape detection. After all, it’s not the easiest of pests to locate. Just ask our colleagues in southeastern Michigan. Either way, it’s probably a safe bet that very soon EAB will be with us, and its impact will be dramatic and widespread.

So, what do we do? What do you do as a golf course superintendent? Do you put the blinders on and pretend the insect will never find your course? Do you adopt a scorched earth policy and “fell” every green, white, black, and blue ash on your property just so you don’t have to worry about EAB in the future? Move to Nebraska? My answers to these questions are no, no, and heck no!

Here’s what I would do. I’d take inventory of every ash tree under my care. Those found to be in a serious state of decline would become intimately acquainted with Mr. Chainsaw. No sense hanging on to trees that look bad and detract from the appearance of the course. But what about the thousands of ash that line your fairways, frame a green, or otherwise look pretty good and contribute to the overall beauty and ambiance of your course. Well, if it were up to me, I’d continue to prune, water, and mulch them, and…enjoy them. We all might be surprised just how long these trees are with us, even after EAB enters the state.

Notice, however, that I haven’t yet mentioned preventive insecticide treatments. And why would I? Unless your golf course has miraculously survived the recent economic downturn without a scratch, you simply can’t afford to protect every ash tree on the course. But, if you have one or several extremely old, historic, or noteworthy specimens you simply can’t afford to lose, then relying on an insecticide to protect your investment makes perfect sense.

These are trying times for golf course managers. Heck, these are trying times for most businesses in Iowa and the last thing the “green industry” needs is the loss of popular, dependable, and heretofore trouble-free tree species. But that is the hand we’ve been dealt and it’s the hand we must play. That is, unless you’d rather fold and go home? I didn’t think so.

So, let’s stop trembling in fear of this little green beast from the east and begin making a plan for the future. Of course, the plan does not include planting more ash, but look on the bright side. Ash are overrepresented in most Iowa landscapes anyway, so now’s the perfect time to diversify your tree population. Looking for some examples? Try these on for size.








Acer ×freemanii 'Sienna' (Sienna Glen® Freeman maple) (Picture Above)

Acer miyabei 'Morton' (State Street® miyabe maple)

Acer saccharum 'Bailsta' (Fall Fiesta™ sugar maple)








Ginkgo biloba (Picture Above) – choose male cultivars if you don’t want fruit litter
Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis 'Harve' (Northern Acclaim™ honeylocust)
Gymnocladus dioicus (Kentucky coffeetree)
Platanus × acerifolia 'Morton Thornhill' (Exclamation™ London planetree)
Quercus macrocarpa (bur oak)
Quercus muehlenbergii (chinkapin oak)
Taxodium distichum (baldcypress)
Tilia americana 'Boulevard' (American linden)
Ulmus americana 'Princeton' (American elm) (Picture to right)
Ulmus × 'Morton Glossy' (Triumph™ elm)

And there are many, many more!

Jeff Iles

Department of Horticulture

Iowa State University


Japanese Beetle Activity on the Rise

July 18, 2011
Adult Japanese beetles burrowing into a golf course putting green.

The number of adult Japanese beetles has exploded the last couple of weeks. Once confined to the northeastern region of the country, this destructive insect has become a permanent part of the Midwestern landscape. This pest has continued its trek west across the country since being introduced into the U.S. from the Orient. Japanese beeltes were first reported in Iowa in 1994 and have gone on to inhabit approximately half of the counties in the state.

The Japanese beetle is one of the white grubs that includes the May and June beetle, masked chafer, green June beetle, European chafer, Asiatic garden beetle, Oriental beetle, and black turfgrass ataenius. The adult beetles can be identified by their green and bronze metallic head and shell and by the white tufts of hair that run along their abdomen. The larval stage must be identified by their raster pattern.

As with all white grubs, the Japanese Beetle larvae feed on the roots of grass plants just below the soil surface. Injury first often appears as drought that fails to respond favorably to irrigation. Each year the adult beetles emerge from the soil and begin mating and laying their eggs. This is the period we are currently experiencing. The eggs hatch in 2-3 weeks and the larvae begin feeding. Feeding can continue through the fall up until the first frost. Injury can also occur in the spring but is usually less severe due to the vigorous growth of cool-season grasses.

This particular grub species is somewhat unique in that the adult beetles also are significant pests of a wide range of ornamental plants. Japanese beetles feeding on leaf tissue leave a skeleton framework of veins following damage. Damage typically occurs at the top of the tree and works downward. Below is a picture of a Linden tree that is under attack from Japanese beetles.

Adult Japanese beetles feeding on a Linden tree.  The beetles usually start feeding at the top of the tree and work their way down.

Monitoring for white grubs can give you an indication of the severity of damage you may be able to expect. Sites with heavy beetle infestation in the summer months are likely incur grub damage during the fall months. Also, be sure to watch areas that have been damaged in the past as grubs often reinfest the same areas.

There are a number of insecticides on the market that are effective at controlling white grub species. The key to effective control is proper timing and placement of the products. Products applied preventatively or curatively are more effective against the grubs when they are small.

Regardless of the timing of the application, it is essential that the product be effectively watered in. Using nozzles that produce larger droplet sizes will help place the product further down in the canopy. Irrigation is normally recommended to help move the product down below the thatch layer and into the soil where the product will be most effective.

Based on the number of adults we are seeing we could be set for significant damage this fall. Monitoring for adult beetle activity is a great tool for those of who haven’t treated and are trying to decide what to do. The margin for error appears as if it will be quite slim as the turf will already be experience summer decline as we move through a week with high environmental stress.

Let us know what you’re seeing out there.

Marcus Jones
Assistant Scientist




Football is here - and so are the white grubs?

September 4, 2015

With the air temperatures climbing back into the high 80’s and low 90’s, now will be a crucial time to monitor for white grubs.

The term “white grub” refers to a group of insects with a larval stage that damage turf. Subsurface feeding insects are of major concern in athletic fields because they feed on roots, cause turf to be easily dislodged, and result in poor footing. Know the life cycle of underground feeders such as grubs and anticipate when they may become a problem. The beginning of football season coincides with peak turf injury from white grubs. Masked chafers, Japanese beetles and May/June beetle are the most common grub species to attack Iowa athletic fields. Annual grubs such as masked chafers and Japanese beetles lay their eggs in the spring, and hatch in the summer. The larvae begin to feed on the root systems in August and these two species are commonly referred to as “fall grubs”, because a majority of damage occurs in the fall. 

The damage is best diagnosed by grasping the blades of the grass and lifting. This process is known as a “tug test”. The grass will break away at the roots. Another option is to shovel or spade a three sided 1 sq. ft. piece of sod about 3 inches deep. Slowly peel back the sod and expose the soil as was done in the picture below. 

Figure 1. Several white grubs feeding on athletic field in Fort Madison, IA. Picture courtesy of Cody Freeman.

Fall grubs that sever the root system do not necessarily kill the grass. If it is properly watered via irrigation or rainfall, it will recover. The drought stress following grub damage, kills the grass. With the warm temperatures in the foreseeable future, it is the most likely time to see damage across Iowa, especially if the rain switch suddenly turns off.  

Keep Dylox or another insecticide handy for preventative measures. It is important to remember that all products need to be watered in. Using nozzles that produce larger droplets will move the product further into the canopy. After application, irrigation or rainfall can help move the product down into the soil, where it can be most effective. 



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



Chinch Bugs in Iowa

July 12, 2018

In recent weeks there have been a few sightings of Chinch bugs in Iowa. The lawn in the pictures is in Cedar Rapids. Typically damage is in open sunny locations in the yard. These insects can be present in great numbers in the yard over 150 per square foot. In this yard both the nymphs and adults were present. The adult is very small, and they are often found in the thatch of the yard. Adults are about 1/6 of an inch long with white wings that fold over their back flat. On the wing is a small black triangular spot. The nymphs are smaller than a pinhead and are a red color with a white band on the back. Chinch bug damage will happen in June through August, and often is not noticed due to coinciding with drought conditions in lawns. Both the nymph and adult will feed on the turfgrass, and they tend to feed on all typical species used in lawns. 

Figure 1. Chinch bug damage in a lawn
Figure 1. Chinch bug damage in a lawn in Cedar Rapids in late June.

Figure 2. Adult chinch bug, notice the wings laying flat on the back
Figure 2. Adult chinch bug, notice the flat wings and distinctive pattern on the back.

Figure 3. Chinch bug nymph in a Iowa lawn
Figure 3. Chinch bug nymph with its distinctive red color and very small size. Often found in the thatch layer. 

Figure 4. Turfgrass damaged and yellow colored from chinch bug feeding
Figure 4. Chinch bug damage on turfgrass, notice the yellow color from the toxins released by the chinch bugs feeding on the plant.




Dr. Laura Jesse Iles

laura jesse headshot
Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic Director
Extension Program Specialist IV
Area of Expertise: 
bugs, ipm, diagnostics


August 15, 2011

Right on schedule, the billbugs are back again this year. It is late July and early August each year that I get calls to come and look at lawns that look like they are "sick". The lawn below is in Gilbert, IA. While there is some leaf spot on this site, much of the damage was caused by billbugs.

The billbugs overwinter as adults. The adult female uses its bill (feeding mouth part) to burrow into the sheath just above the crown of the grass. She then deposits an egg in the sheath where it is is safe from most insecticides. This usually takes place in late April or early May. The egg hatches in July and the larvae proceeds to eat through the crown and to emerge into the soil. (The two pictures below are commercial slides from the American Society of America slide set on turfgrass insects)

To diagnose the problem, reach down and pull up some of the dead grass. If it is bill bugs, the grass will break away at the crown. The remaining tissue will be hollowed-out at the base.

Dig down into the soil and there will be many hollowed-out stems and a saw-dust like material left behind by the feeding larvae.

In early August, there will likely be larvae present in the soil

The larvae not very big. The picture below shows one on the tip of my pocket knife.

The larvae will soon turn into pupa and then into adults. This picture from the research station shows a larvae and an immature adult together in the same location.

The first question that I usually get from the home-owner is, "should I spray in insecticide now (in August)". The answer is no. The damage is already done and the application of an insecticide after the damage has occurred is not going to help. You have to treat the adult females in the spring before they lay their eggs. Late April is the best time to treat, however, that is difficult because they is no apparent damage at that time of year. You are also unlikely to see many adults at the that time of year.

There are systemic insecticides that could potentially be used when the larvae are in the sheath. The problem with that is that you do not see the damage before it is too late to treat.

This is a difficult pest to deal with because of these complex timing issues. If you have had a bad outbreak this year, it would be wise to invest in an insecticide application in the spring. Lawn care companies can do this, or the home-owner can do it themselves. Look for a insecticide that lists billbugs on the label. The critical thing is timing. If you apply after the eggs have been laid, you are wasting your time and money.



July 16, 2010

I have been called out to look at a few areas this week that people thought were disease. When I started to dig in the area, the first thing I noticed was hollow sheaths that break off at the crown.

This is damage caused by bluegrass bill bugs. The insect gets its name from the long snout or bill on its head. The females use this to burrow into the sheath and lay an egg.

Here is the kind of damage that you see from the feeding. It looks like leaf spot until you look closer.

The feeding is going on now, July 16, and will continue into August. If you dig in the area you should find larvae (see below)

Here is a particularly good picture of a larvae and a pupa in the same area. The larvae change into pupa and then into adults.

This is a close up of a larvae as they appear now.

The obvious question is "should I spray now?" The answer is no. The damage is already done. You will need to treat for the adults in the spring before they lay their eggs. Egg laying generally takes place from April 15 to early May in central Iowa. Any of the common, contact insecticides will work. It is all in the timing. Once the egg is in the sheath, it is too late.