Mole Crickets – How to get on top of an infestation and repair your lawn
Mole crickets are cylindrical-bodied insects about 3–5 cm (1.2–2.0 in) long as adults, with small eyes and shovel-like fore limbs highly developed for burrowing (just like their namesake – the mole!).
Mole crickets are related to grasshoppers, locusts, and regular crickets, but form their own family Gryllotalpidae. These insects have become so successful, they’ve spread to every continent on Earth, except Antarctica.
Australia is home to a number of invasive mole cricket species, including the African mole cricket (Gryllotalpa africana), native to Africa; and the Changa mole cricket (Scapteriscus didactylus), which has been accidentally introduced to areas around Newcastle. We also have our own native species of mole cricket, Gryllotalpa pluvialis, found mostly on the east coast.
Some species harm turf through tunnelling and uprooting grasses, but others feed heavily on roots and dine on tender shoots on the surface. Few tiny seedlings are safe. Uprooted seedlings and raised, molelike runways just below the soil’s surface show where their spade like front legs have tunnelled through soil. By the time dead turf becomes visible in late summer, mole cricket damage is done.
You may also hear the mole crickets make a chirping or trilling sound, often at dusk. Egg laying has been observed to begin from November throughout the warmer months. Adult females construct egg chambers depositing up to 200 eggs with each egg measuring 2mm in length. Within two weeks of laying, the eggs hatch and become young nymphs that resemble adults. While adult male mole crickets die after mating, females die after depositing their eggs. There appears to be only 1 generation of insect per year in Australia.
How can you tell if you have Mole Crickets in your lawn?
If you suspect mole crickets at work, a simple soapy-water flush will bring them to the surface and confirm your suspicions.
Mix 2 tablespoons of liquid dishwashing detergent (some experts say lemon-scented may work best) with around 7 litres of water in a watering can and drench an area about 1 metre square. As the soap penetrates, mole crickets pop up. Look closely so you don’t miss tiny nymphs. If two to four mole crickets surface in three minutes, your lawn needs help.
For successful control, pesticides must be able to reach mole crickets in their protective, sub-surface tunnels. This is why we recommend a water-in insecticide.
I have Mole Crickets – How can I keep my lawn healthy?
Because Mole Crickets burrow and damage the roots of your lawn, it is important to keep applying a quality granular fertiliser like Knight’s Special Mix, which contains a small amount of phosphorus which is essential for new root growth. Following this, regularly apply a liquid kelp like Lawn Porn Root Builder + to strengthen the root tips – very important for our abrasive sands.
Kelp is the most universally recognized and widely used natural biostimulant in the agricultural and turfgrass industries. It contains many important plant growth regulators, such as auxins, cytokinins and gibberellins. It also contains micronutrients to enhance a plant’s ability to resist pest and disease attack. Lawnporn Root Builder + is the commercial NuTurf product Folimax KelMAX. While the extraction process used by most other seaweed products destroys the contained auxins in preference to the cytokinins, KelMAX retains the integrity of the naturally occurring high auxin content only found in Ecklonia maxima seaweed. Auxins have the effect of triggering a root growth response in turf grass and cytokinins trigger shoot growth.
How to get rid of Mole Crickets
Alternative/Home Brew Methods
Due to the tunnelling nature of the mole cricket, it can be very difficult to completely eradicate them from your lawn without using a commercial pesticide. However, there are a few alternative methods that you can try.
Like other insects, mole crickets are sluggish in the morning, making it an ideal time to catch them by hand. Some prefer to use a butterfly net to do the job — but either way, manually removing them from the garden or lawn works well if the infestation is small. Dropping the crickets into a jar of soapy water to drown and disposing of them away from the garden may be all you need to keep these critters under control.
Making your own insect traps from yellow sticky paper and placing them near areas where mole crickets frequent works to capture them as well as a variety of other insects.
The most effective chemical treatment for mole crickets is Fipronil. Fipronil is odorless which is why it is so effective. Because the insects can’t smell it they don’t bury down deeper to avoid it, as opposed to Bifenthrin, which is strong smelling for insects, so better used as a barrier spray. Because Mole Crickets burrow down, chemicals which work by causing a barrier are ineffective. Interestingly, Fipronil is also very effective for controlling ants.
Fiprinol is also available in a lower dosage (usually in an off-the-shelf granular), however, this is ineffective for most insects – especially Mole Crickets.
How to apply
- Combine Vista 200sc (Fipronil) with water according to the product directions
- Spray over affected area
- Irrigate the targeted area with between 4-6mm of water soon after application
- Apply Lawnporn Root Builder + a few days after application
- Finish with Knights Special Mix fertiliser
- Repeat as necessary
Once you have the Mole Cricket infestation under control, you will be able to move onto a preventative treatment like Acelepryn or Yates Grub Kill and Protect for Lawns next spring.