What are the little white moths in my yard?

Summer is known for a lot of things. Picnics, fireworks, trips to the beach or pool, and moths flying over your stressed-out lawn. Have you ever seen those small, tan moths flying across your lawn as you mow? How about when you’re playing out into your grass? They are Sod Webworms. These small moths aren’t a problem, but their offspring are.

What are they?

These moths are the adult form of Sod Webworms, a common lawn pest. The larval stage of these moths is a voracious pest of lawns. The are also much more difficult to find than their flying, adult counterparts. Sod Webworm larvae overwinter in underground tunnels beneath your lawn. These small larvae are approximately 1/2″ long and blend in very well with your lawn. When the overwintering larvae get to late spring, they pupate and then the adult moths emerge 10-14 days later, typically in June. Adult moths can be recognized as they dart in a zigzag pattern over the grass. After mating, female moths can lay up to 200 eggs, which will hatch into young larvae, ready to feed on your lawn in as little as 7 days.

When will I see Sod Webworms?

Sod Webworm larvae will feed on your lawn from June through September. The multiple generations of this insect can cause substantial damage to your lawn. You can observe this damage as brown patches up to the size of a fist in your lawn. This damage typically goes unnoticed if the lawn is already browning due to drought stress. Larvae will chew off grass blades just above the base of the plant and these spots will enlarge and join with one another. Another sign of larvae feeding is finding green fecal pellets in the thatch layer, but these are even harder to find because of their small size! Finding these larvae takes some good eyes, and being down on your hands and knees, inspecting the thatch layer. If you find more than 6 larvae in a square foot, you have a major problem on your hands.

What to do?

Getting rid of Sod Webworms is fairly easy. A granular or liquid insecticide labeled for their control will give your lawn about 30 days of relief from these pests. However, it will only control actively feeding larvae, if the material comes in contact with them. Granular products need to be watered in to start working, but are very effective in killing lawn insects as it is absorbed into the grass plant’s tissues they are feeding on. A lawn care company can provide individual treatments for lawn insect control to address this pest. These applications also typically will help with Chinch Bug control as well. A more proactive approach to lawn maintenance is to have a lawn care program that will include treatment a couple times during summer months to manage insect populations before they start damaging your lawn. If you need help with insect control for your lawn or any other lawn care concerns, we’d love to talk.

Quick Tip: Have You Noticed Moths in Your Lawn?

For the past few weeks, we’ve gotten a couple e-mails asking about large numbers of small moths flying around Gainesville lawns and beds. Although the moths themselves pose no danger to landscape plants, the presence of the moths is a legitimate cause for concern. It’s not that moths damage the lawn though, they’re just a symptom of the actual problem – which is an infestation of the Tropical Sod Webworm.
How are moths and sod webworms related? Very similar to a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, the tropical sod webworm turns into a moth. Sod Webworms damage your lawn by chewing the grass down to the leafbud as it’s primary source of food, causing a similar effect on the lawn as if it were scalped with a mower in random spots. If there’s anyhitng St. Augustine grass does not like, it’s being scalped – which causes it to turn brown. The chewed or affected areas of the lawn typically get larger overnight, because that’s when the webworms are the most active. The round pattern comes from the moth’s eggs being laid in one place and the webworms eating out from that initial hatching.

Webworms are known for primarily attacking fresh-installed sod (hence the name ‘sod webworm’) due to sod’s high levels of nitrogen in the turf from the sod farms requiring quick growth rates to re-produce sod at a faster rate. They can attack so fast that some will even ask if the webworms came in the new sod – but the abundance of moths typically show otherwise. They’re also known for attacking shaded areas of lawns due to the moths residing in the trees.

Lately, however, a shortage of new sod and an abundance of moths have led webworms to focus on existing lawns rather than just new sod. So, the appearance of the moths should be a red flag, and a reason to begin carefully watching for pest damage in your Gainesville lawn. Below is a photo of a Gainesville lawn with webworm damage (the chewed leaf edges and the remnants of the leaves after the webworm’s digestion). The photo also shows grey leaf spot fungus (the grey tip on the end of the leaf causing the grass blade to curl up) which is a disease. It’s a good thing this new client signed up for our lawn care program!

The second photo shows a webworm that we found in the same lawn and more of the chewed leaf blades and remnants of the digested leaves (little green balls).

Many clients have asked about prevenative treatments, but the sad news is that prevention has little to do with insecticide and more to do with limiting the amount of quick-release nitrogen getting on the lawn as it gets later in the season. Due to the amount of rainfall in our area and the lack of residual insecticides that work on webworm populations, much of the control is after their infestation is noticed. This is why it’s extremely important to be on our lawn care program, as it covers not only limiting the fertilization of nitrogen to help prevent webworms, but also treating the webworm infestation when it occurs, and as many follow-up treatments as your lawn needs.

Have you noticed your lawn turning brown? or noticed moths flying when you walk through your lawn in the morning? Those are warning signs that the Tropical Sod Webworm is about to feast on your grass.

If you think your Gainesville lawn has pest concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 378-LAWN. We want to help in any way we can. Below is a video from UF’s extension office in Collier County, but it relevant to Alachua County as well.

Best product
for Webworms

Sod webworms live in the thatch, just above the soil, where they spin a light webbing and feed on the undersides of leaves. Damage first appears as small, ragged brown spots in the turf. As feeding continues these areas become larger and may join other large dead patches of grass. Damage occurs on most turfgrasses including bluegrass, bentgrass, tall and fine-leafed fescues and buffalo grass and is most prevalent in areas that receive plenty of direct sunlight or south-facing slopes. Heavily shaded areas are seldom attacked.


The sod webworm (1 inch long) is the larval or caterpillar stage of a small white-brown moth (1/2 to 3/4 inches long) with pale yellow or brown markings on their wings. The adult moths have a habit of folding their wings up closely to their bodies when at rest, earning the group the name “close-winged moths.” If disturbed, the moths fly in a zig zag pattern for short distances before settling again. Adults do not feed on lawns.

Life Cycle

Sod webworms overwinter as young larvae in silk-lined tunnels near the soil surface or in the thatch. They resume feeding as temperatures warm in April or early May and pass through several instars until their development is complete. In early June, webworms pupate in loosely woven cocoons made of silk and bits of dirt. Approximately 10-14 days later adult moths emerge and begin mating. Mated females fly just above the lawn surface and randomly scatter their eggs into the grass. Each female may lay several hundred eggs which hatch into a new generation of larvae within a week. Young larvae spin webs and feed until mid-summer. There are two to three generations per year in most areas.

Sod Webworm Control Products

  1. Water regularly and reduce thatch and other horticultural stresses on lawns.
  2. For light to moderate infestations use a soap drench (2 Tbsp. liquid soap per gallon of water) to draw caterpillars up to the lawn surface, then rake and destroy.
  3. Beneficial nematodes are a very effective biological control for use against this pest. For best results, water the lawn a day or two prior to applying the nematodes and water the lawn again, immediately after application.
  4. The natural, soil dwelling bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt-kurstaki is particularly effective on webworms. Use the easy-to-apply liquid spray (1 Tbsp/ gallon) to hit pests and protect your turf at the first signs of damage. Repeat at 5-7 day intervals, if needed. BTK sprays do not harm honey bees or birds and are safe for use around pets and children.
  5. Spinosad, another biological agent derived from fermentation, is also very effective. It’s the active ingredient in Monterey® Garden Insect Spray, a product classified as organic by the USDA’s National Organic Program and listed for organic use by OMRI. Mix 2 oz/ gallon (3 gallons of spray treats 1,000 sq ft). Delay watering and mowing after application for 12-24 hours.
  6. Safer® Insecticidal Soap will work fast on heavy infestations. A short-lived natural pesticide, it works by damaging the outer layer of soft-bodied insect pests, causing dehydration and death within hours. Apply 2.5 oz/ gallon of water when insects are present, repeat every 7-10 day as needed.
  7. Least-toxic botanical insecticides should be used as a last resort. Derived from plants which have insecticidal properties, these natural pesticides have fewer harmful side effects than synthetic chemicals and break down more quickly in the environment.

How To Get Rid Of Sod Webworms

We’re going to talk about an insect that attacks lawns here in the Midwest and really throughout most of the country, including Florida. We’re going to find out the answer to the question: How to get rid of sod webworms.

What Is Sod Webworm

Sod webworm is kind of an overall term used for a lot of different caterpillars that attack lawns but generally they’re going to start feeding in the spring.

They overwinter and then in the spring they come up and begin to feed. But you don’t really notice the problem at that point because your lawn is vigorously growing in the spring and it kind of out grows any damage.

However, when we get to summertime, the lawn growth will typically slow down or even stop as the lawn goes into summer dormancy. And when that happens, these caterpillars or sod webworms continue to feed.

Recognize The Damage

You don’t necessarily notice the damage because of the fact that your lawns already brown from being dormant. Once the lawns begin to green up and late August and September when temperatures come down a little bit, we get some moisture. That’s when the damage is noticed.

For example, there’s a couple of Kentucky bluegrass lawns that have been completely decimated by sod webworm. Here’s bent grass and this one has also been severely damaged from sod webworms. One way to tell that you’re possibly going to have a sod webworm problem is you’ll see the adult moths flying up.

As you walk now the adults don’t do any damage to the lawn but they are definitely an indicator that you’re going to have larvae and the larvae will do damage.

How To Get Rid Of Sod Webworm

I get sod webworm every year in my tall fescue lawn but they don’t cause enough damage for me to treat. I practice integrated pest management which basically says if I don’t think they’re going to cause major damage to my desirable crop, which in this case is grass, I let them go and my lawns pretty vigorous anyway. It kind of grows through any of the issues that these sod web will cause.

However, I did dig up a few of the caterpillars. You can see what they look like and then also through this post you’ve seen what the adults look like, as I chase them through my lawn. If you are going to treat because you’ve got along that’s seeing damage, you want to definitely do that in July and possibly again in late August.

It just depends on how our year goes. Usually sod webworm will get two life cycles in but I have seniors where there are three full life cycles. You want to use a product that contains bifenthrin which is sometimes known as tall star would be like the branded name. You can also use a product that contains dialogues.


Timely Tendings: Get rid of sod webworms with soap and pesticide

Moths are sign of sod webworms; use soap, pesticide for removal

Dingy brown moths flying around grassy areas are often an indication that eggs are being laid in your lawn by the sod webworm. These eggs will hatch into small green caterpillars in about five to seven days that primarily feed at night and remain in a curled position on or near the soil surface during the day. Injured grass has notches chewed along the sides of the blades. The foliage may be completely stripped in patches.

A soap flush is a good way to detect sod webworms. Mix two tablespoons of dishwashing liquid in a gallon sprinkler can. Fill with water and drench a four square foot area. Observe the area for about two minutes. Soap is an irritant causing insects to surface.

A popular, effective pesticide labeled for sod webworm control is Bacillis thuringiensis (Bt, Dipel, Thuricide). Bt is a bacterial product that will cause the caterpillars to stop feeding and die without harming beneficial insects (except butterfly caterpillars, so keep this away from butterfly garden areas), wildlife, pets or humans. So, it is a more environmentally friendly choice. Sod webworms may re-infest the lawn within one to three weeks after treatment. Continue to examine the lawn and re-apply pesticide as required.

Compiled by Theresa Badurek, urban horticulture extension agent, UF/IFAS Pinellas County Extension Service. For additional landscape and garden information, visit pinellascountyextension.org. For regular tips and information about what’s growing in Pinellas, go to facebook.com/PinellasExtension.

Insect & Pest Control

Who needs an exterminator when finding everything you need to master do-it-yourself pest control is so simple? For indoor bugs we offer a wide assortment of bed bug killer. For pests like mice, we have several solutions including different mouse trap and mouse poison options to choose from. We know that ants and roaches can be a big indoor issue. That’s why we always stock several varieties of ant bait, ant killer and roach killer that kills ants and roaches on the spot. Have an outdoor pest problem instead? Kill mosquitos and keep them from becoming an even bigger issue with high-quality mosquito spray and an electric bug zapper. And don’t forget to visit our garden center for an array of insect control options like fire ant killer. When you’re outdoors, don’t forget to protect yourself and your family with effective bug spray, especially during summer. Need a squirrel trap, rat poison or rat traps for larger pests? We have those, too, including pest control that’s safe for kids and pest control that’s safe for pets. For a simple way to enjoy your space in style, add some TIKI torches to your patio or lawn to keep away unwanted bugs from ruining a BBQ or outdoor
Looking to keep pests out of your garden? Visit our garden center for an array of insect control options. Not sure how to kill bed bugs? See how simple bed bug treatment can be. There are also a wide range of products available for larger pests, such as mousetraps, squirrel traps and rodent traps as well as pest control that’s safe for kids and pest control that’s safe for pets, too. For a simple way to enjoy your space in style, you can also use TIKI torches to keep away unwanted bugs and pests.

Checklist for a Pest-Free Home

Check Your Home’s Foundation: Each quarter, thoroughly inspect your home’s exterior and foundation for cracks and holes. A hole just a quarter of an inch in diameter is often a large enough entry for rodents. If you do find holes or cracks, be sure to patch them sufficiently. Otherwise, you’re likely to need some rodent traps.
Examine Your Doors, Windows and Seals for Leaks: Damaged or missing sweeps under doors are one of the most popular entry points for rodents and other pests. To inspect yours, turn on the lights in a room or garage, and step outside to see if any light escapes. If the light gets through, critters can get through, too.
Inspect Entrances for Plumbing, Gas and Cable Lines: Areas where plumbing, gas and cable lines enter your home are also a common entry point for pests. Check these for openings or gaps, and check dryer or exhaust vents as well.
Trim Nearby Trees and Bushes: Trimming back trees and bushes in close proximity to your home is another good way to combat pests. Trees and bushes with branches that hang over your roof can be an easy way for unwanted critters to climb right in.
Seal Trash Cans, Food Containers and Storage Bins Tightly: Trash cans, or any other containers containing food or waste, should always be sealed properly. A good tip is to always keep trash cans away from your house so pests and critters don’t find their way in. Pests also like to hide inside storage bins, so be sure to seal containers with tight lids. This is often one of the first places exterminators check.
Inspect Your Roofline: You’ll also want to check your roofline, which includes your shingles, vents, vent screens and chimney. Fix any areas that have gaps or holes, and ensure your chimney cap is in place as well. A secure chimney cap acts as a natural animal repellent.

Pesticide Types

Many people assume pesticides are just bug killers. While pesticides do make for great fire ant killer, roach killer and insect control in general, killing bugs is just one of their many benefits. The full family of pesticides includes:

  • Insecticides: Insect attractants and repellents, flea collars for pets
  • Herbicides: Plant defoliants and desiccants
  • Rodenticides: Rat and mouse killers
  • Germicides: Bathroom disinfectants
  • Algicides: Including some pool chemicals
  • Mildewcides: Contained in many cleaning products

Warning: Be careful when using any type of pesticide. Never use indoor chemicals outside, and remember, more isn’t always better. Always read the application instructions on the label.

Sod Webworm Lifecycle: Learn About Webworm Lawn Damage And Control

Webworm lawn damage is most significant in cool season turf grass. These tiny pests are the larvae of an unassuming small brown moth. The larval feeding causes dead brown patches in lawns, which may have difficulty recovering. Sod webworm control is focused on the larva and not the adult moths. Learn how to get rid of sod webworms for a healthier and greener lawn.

Webworm Lawn Damage

The first signs of sod webworm feeding are found in spring. The chewing activity of the worms removes the tender top growth of the grass and leaves behind thin patches of shorter grass. As they grow, the webworms cause larger areas of brown sod. These are usually in sunny locations and dry spots, such as curb edges and along driveways.

The worst evidence is seen in late July and August and may be mistaken for drought stressed grass that has entered summer dormancy. You can determine it is webworm lawn damage by digging into the thatch and finding the silk lined tunnels. Alternately, mix two tablespoons of liquid dish soap with two gallons of water and soak an area of the lawn. Within minutes the tan spotted worms come to the surface and you will know the cause of the lawn damage.

Sod Webworm Lifecycle

Webworm moths lay eggs in spring. Females can lay 60 eggs per night and eggs hatch in just a week. The complete cycle from larvae to adult takes six to ten weeks and the insects may produce several generations per season. The latest generation overwinters in tunnels in the soil. Growing larva house themselves in silk lined tunnels in thatch, where they feed on the nearby green blades.

Sod webworm control must focus on the larva, not the adult moths. There are several species of sod webworms, some of which only have one generation in mid to late summer and do not cause much damage. The variety that has first generation larva in early spring cause the most problems in turf grass as they are only the first wave of feeding worms. By the time the second generation arrives, grass is already stressed and subsequent feedings cause more obvious distress to the lawn.

Controlling Sod Webworms

There are several ways to improve the quality of your lawn after discovering sod webworms. First, water and fertilize regularly to enhance the health of the grass and encourage it to recover.

Second, do not use broad spectrum insecticides on the lawn which can kill beneficial predators. You may also spray the lawn with Bacillus thuringiensis during the early larva appearance. However, it seems to have little control on older larva, so knowing the sod webworm lifecycle is key to achieving control.

Thirdly, use a pesticide labeled for effectiveness against the pests. The larva feed mostly at night. Therefore, controlling sod webworms with chemicals successfully means spraying in late afternoon to ensure ingestion of the poison.

If you live in an area where these pests are common, you may want to use a turfgrass that is resistant to the worms. Any grass that is “endophyte enhanced” such as some tall fescues, perennial ryegrass and fine fescues has been engineered to be resistant to the pests.

Sod Webworms

Sod webworms comprise several different species of lawn-damaging caterpillars. These caterpillars are the immature larvae stage of various moths known collectively as “snout moths” and “lawn moths.” The moths have distinctive, snoutlike projections on their heads, and they’re often found clinging to grass blades, heads pointing down, with their wings rolled tight. Lawn moths don’t damage grasses, but their hungry larvae do. Sunny locations are hardest hit.

Identification: Sod webworm moths are dingy white, gray or tan with snoutlike projections and wingspans up to 1 inch. They fly in short, zig-zagging spurts. Sod webworm larvae grow to 3/4 to 1 inch long and vary in color, depending on the species. They have dark heads and small dark spots along bodies that range from gray or pinkish brown to green.

Signs/Damage: These leaf-chewing pests shear grass off at the thatch line, eating entire stems or dragging them into webbed, silk-lined thatch tunnels for later meals. Damage typically starts as irregular spots marked by very short grass, which goes from green to brown without yellowing. The spots enlarge quickly and grass dies.

Control: Sod webworms are night feeders. Maximize your impact by treating during late afternoon or early evening, right before these pests come out to feed. GardenTech® brand offers several highly effective products to kill sod webworms by contact and keep protecting for up to three months:

  • Sevin® Insect Killer Granules treat sod webworms above and below the soil line. Apply the ready-to-use granules with a regular lawn spreader and water immediately, according to product label directions for sod webworms. This releases the active ingredient to reach the pests in thatch and as they feed.
  • Sevin® Insect Killer Ready to Spray attaches to a common garden hose to simplify treating larger lawn areas. The product measures and mixes automatically as you spray, providing thorough, uniform lawn coverage. For best results, mow your lawn at 3 inches or less before spraying.
  • Sevin® Insect Killer Concentrate, used with a pump-style sprayer, is ideal for treating lawns and surrounding shrubbery, where moths may hide, and spot treating areas with sod webworm activity. Give special attention to exposed thatch and grass surrounding suspected damage.

Tip: Watch for bird activity in affected lawn areas. Starlings and other birds feed on sod webworms and similar turf-damaging insects, leaving probing holes in damaged turf.

Always read product labels and follow the instructions carefully.

GardenTech is a registered trademark of Gulfstream Home and Garden, Inc.

Sevin is a registered trademark of Tessenderlo Kerley, Inc.

Photo Credit:

  • “Eastern Grass-veener (Crambus laqueatellus)” by Andrew Cannizzaro licensed under CC BY 2.0
  • “Sod Webworm – Pediasia trisecta, Woodbridge, Virginia” by Judy Gallagher licensed under CC BY 2.0

How To Control and Eliminate Sod Webworms [INFOGRAPHIC]

Asif B posted this on Jan 9, 2017

Sod Webworm Control

Sod webworms, also known as turf webworms, are the larvae or caterpillar stage of the small white-brown moth and are a common issue on lawns. Sod webworms are about 1 inch long and when they mature into moths, they are between ½ an inch to ¾ of an inch. The color of their wings range between a faint yellow with brown markings. There are over 20 different species of sod webworm and during this phase in their lives they have a ferocious appetite leading them to be terribly destructive to whatever lawn they trek upon.

Sod webworms live above soil level in the thatch. This is where they spin a light webbing and feed on the undersides of leaves. Damage from sod webworms initially go unnoticed by lawn owners but once they multiply to a sizable population, the damage can then become much more noticeable. Initially, the damage from sod webworm feasting appears as small, ragged brown spots in the turf. As the consumption continues, these areas grow larger and result in large patches of dead grass which looks similar to a lawn disease.

If you have sod webworms tearing up your beautiful lawn, it is imperative that you carry out some sod webworm control measures to destroy them and put an end to the destruction. Solutions Pest & Lawn can supply you with everything you need to eradicate this lawn pest–from professional sod webworm control pesticides to expert guidance and support.

If you have any questions or concerns, we are available to speak with live via chat on our website, over the phone or via email. Receive a more detailed step-by-step guide on how to eliminate Sod Webworms by clicking here.

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Categories: Pest Control Lawn Care Infographics

Lawn Insect Control

Lawn Insect & Pest Control in Hot Springs

Popular Pests & Pest Control Services:

  • Chinch Bug Control
  • Grub Control
  • Sod Webworm Control
  • Lawn Insect Control

Don’t lose the battle over Chinch Bugs. Chinch bugs can attack a lawn quickly as weather warms and adults move into open areas where females lay eggs. These eggs hatch, and begin feeding on grass plants while releasing plant damaging toxins. Damaged areas first appear as yellowish to brownish patches which enlarge as the insects spread. Lawn Doctor’s Chinch Bug Control reduces the number of these pests on your property and minimizes the risk of infestation.

Grubs are the larval stage of several beetles. During their life cycle, they exist approximately two inches below the lawn’s surface, continuously feeding on the root system. Proactively treat your lawn for grubs with Lawn Doctor’s Preventative Grub Control. Grub damage is most likely to occur in the late summer and early fall months. However, grubs can also be present and cause damage in the late spring. Grub activity will encourage damage due to scavenging animals including moles, skunks and birds, all of which will search for grubs to feed on. Damage may not be apparent until it is too late, requiring costly repair.

Lawn Doctor of Hot Springs can provide the best treatment to help prevent damage before it occurs. A properly cared for landscape adds both beauty and value to your home while it provides natural support for the environment. Lawn Doctor of Hot Springs can help you create and maintain the quality landscape you deserve to have surrounding your home.

The Sod Webworm is the caterpillar state of a common lawn moth. The night flying moths drop eggs from which the caterpillars hatch in the lawn and begin to feed on grass plans almost immediately. Damaged areas have yellow patches of turf that may eventually turn brown and die. Webworms are only active at night, chewing grass leaves, often severing the entire plant at the crown. During the day they retreat to silk lined tunnels in the thatch or soil. Birds flocking to your lawn to feed may indicate Sod Webworm activity. Control of Sod Webworms is included in your Lawn Doctor Maintainer Care program.

Call Lawn Doctor of Hot Springs to schedule your FREE On-Site evaluation today.

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