4 Common Lawn Pests in Northeast OH and How to Control them

Dave Petti

You want your lawn at your Northeast Ohio home to look lush and green. 

What you don’t want is a lawn that is yellowing and being slowly eaten to death by insects. It doesn’t give the best impression and can make you look like the neglectful one on the neighborhood block. 

In lawns, insects can be quite sneaky. They are usually so small that they are feasting on your grass and you don’t even know it until you see the damage, and sometimes by then it can be harder to control them because they are bigger and stronger from dining on your grass. 

Some bugs in grass eat your grass roots, while others suck moisture from your grass blades. Both types can give your lawn a bad look and be quite destructive. 


How can you get rid of grass bugs and get your nice lawn back? Let’s look closer at some regular Northeast Ohio grass pests and how you can best manage them in your home lawn. 

4 Common Bugs in Grass in Northeast Ohio Lawns

Before we can talk about killing lawn insects, we have to identify which ones you’re dealing with. 

Knowing the enemy can provide a better solution to ensure success and limit any damage to your grass. 

These are the most common ones we see here in Northeast Ohio.

1. Lawn Grubs

One of the biggest bugs in grass is grubs. They work underground, so you may not even see them out right. Before you realize it, your lawn isn’t doing so well and you’re wondering what went wrong. 

Lawn grubs are technically the larvae of some insects, such as Japanese Beetles and June Beetles. These larvae have C-shaped, white, soft bodies with legs right beneath their brown-ish heads.

The first symptoms of grub feeding you might notice in your grass are patchy areas of discolored, stressed, or wilting grass. These areas of your lawn may seem like they are suffering from drought, but they won’t respond to watering or irrigation. The areas that look impacted may be irregularly shaped and feel spongy, and if you grab them you might notice they roll right up off the soil as if their roots aren’t even attached to the ground. 


2. Chinch Bugs

Adult chinch bugs are pretty small – an adult can be approximately one-sixth of an inch long, so you may never notice them in your lawn. These pests have shiny, white wings but can’t fly. 

These bugs in grass have piercing-sucking mouthparts that allow them to extract sap from the grass blades while injecting a toxin, causing injury to your grass that resembles drought. They tend to do this during July and August. The first sign of damage is usually a color change in your grass from green to yellow and then, unfortunately, brown.

Chinch bugs prefer lawns with thick thatch and compaction that grow in full sunlight. These bugs like the cool-season grasses we have here in Northeast Ohio.

How can you tell the difference between chinch bug damage and damage caused by other things like drought? If you look closely, you might be able to see yellow grass in between the brown and green sections. Your best bet is looking for areas of yellowing and browning grass that spread over a few days. Drought issues won’t spread like this. Also, water stress signs will go away after irrigation, while chinch bug damage will not. 

Chinch bug

3. Billbugs

Billbugs are bugs in grass that are pretty small - ¼ of an inch to ⅜ of an inch long. They are dark gray to black in color. 

In larvae form, billbugs are white with brown heads, resembling legless white grubs. Adult billbugs typically hibernate during winter months, becoming more active in late-April to mid-May when soil surface temperatures reach 65 degrees Fahrenheit or more. 

After emerging, billbugs feed on grass and then the females insert eggs into grass stems. Most eggs are laid by early-July. They then feed externally on grass crowns and roots. 

Infestations produce small dead browning spots in the turf. The soil under the damaged turf is solid. But similar to chinch bugs, the big problem with billbug damage is that it looks like a variety of other problems. 


4. Fall Armyworms

No one wants bugs in grass, and armyworms can definitely use their army-like movement to march across your grass, leaving damage in their wake. 

Armyworm larvae are 1 to 1.5 inches long and dark brownish-green or black with long white, orange, and brown stripes. The adult version of this pest is 1 inch long with a 1.5-inch wingspan, tan color and a small, white spot on each forewing. 

Armyworms lay eggs on flat tree or shrub leaves. They show up in your grass by using air currents to move. Then they drop and settle in grass, laying egg masses. 

Once they hatch, armyworms feed on your grass, making it look drought-stressed. You can see the difference between drought and armyworm damage if you see ragged holes on your grass blades when you look closely. 

You might also notice armyworms’ sticky-looking egg masses that will be on plants or even buildings, patios, and outdoor furniture. 

Fall armyworm

How to Get Rid of Grass Bugs

Depending on the insect you have, there are different things a lawn care professional can do to kill insects in lawns. 


How to Manage Grubs

The trick to banishing grubs from your grass is catching them when they are young. 

Targeting a preventive grub treatment on your lawn by a professional lawn care technician in May and June is the best strategy for curbing severe damage. 

Embracing a proactive lawn care program that includes fertilization and weed control can also keep your lawn healthy and help it better withstand bugs in grass. 

How To Manage Chinch Bugs

For treating your lawn for chinch bugs, professionally applied insecticidal soap and granular insecticides can handle current infestations. This must be done when the pests are actively feeding. Bringing in a lawn care professional for a surface insect control treatment can significantly reduce wide scale chinch bug damage if you catch it early enough. 

Unfortunately, there is no preventive treatment for chinch bugs. But you can help prevent chinch bugs by removing the conditions they love –  namely thatch. 

An annual aeration and overseeding can reduce your thatch and compaction, thicken up your lawn, and improve the health of your soil, encouraging healthier grass. Aeration is the process of using an aerator to pull soil plugs from the lawn to encourage airflow and reduce compaction. Overseeding at this time maximizes seed to soil contact to ensure better germination. 

How To Manage Billbugs

Unfortunately, billbugs are some of the most difficult lawn insects to control because the adults' armor-like bodies do not readily absorb insecticides. They also don’t ingest much insecticide when they penetrate a grass stem while feeding. 

For preventing killing lawn insects like billbugs, you want to aerate annually to remove thatch. This also encourages water and nutrient penetration into your grass soil. 

Your lawn care professional may also apply systemic insecticides because of their long residual.

How To Manage Fall Armyworms

You can control fall armyworms with an insecticide treatment. 

Since armyworms can have multiple generations per year, a lawn care professional might recommend multiple applications to keep armyworms away. 

Other Prevention Tips for Keeping Bugs In Grass Away

Other preventive methods of eliminating bugs in grass include having a lawn care professional take good care of your turf. A stressed lawn is one that can attract trouble. 


To keep your lawn healthy: 

  • Mow your lawn properly. This means mowing it to a 3- to 4-inch height. In the spring and summer, this means mowing weekly so you aren’t cutting more than one-third of the grass blades during each mowing. Sharpening your mower blades regularly can ensure a clean cut.
  • Water properly. A lack of water or too much water can stress out your lawn. You want to water infrequently for longer durations versus short, frequent watering. 
  • Proper fertilization. Hiring a lawn care pro to keep your lawn properly fertilized can ensure it receives adequate nutrients. 

Annual aeration and overseeding to prevent compaction and keep your lawn thick and healthy. 

While regular lawn care might sound too easy when it comes to how to get rid of grass bugs, you’d be surprised how well it keeps lawn-damaging pests away.

Keep Lawn Pests Away with Turf Pride

In your Northeast Ohio home lawn, the very last thing you want to see are yellowing and brown spots. And you certainly don’t want to find an army of tiny insects multiplying and doing the damage so effortlessly and quickly after you’ve spent so much time and money in caring for your home landscape, keeping its curb appeal up.

If battling bugs in your lawn feels like a second job, we understand how you can become frustrated. You have summer plans to make, and fighting bugs is not on the agenda. 

Give Turf Pride a call. We’d love to help identify your pest problem and take this worry off of your plate. Then all you have left to do is enjoy your time outside this summer. 


Want to improve your lawn’s health and create a thicker, greener lawn? Turf Pride can help. Get started today with a free quote. Together, we’ll customize a plan that gives you the most attractive lawn on the block.

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Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hairy_Chinch_Bug_-_Blissus_leucopteru_(50594763067).jpg, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sphenophorus_parvulus-Berger.jpg, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Spodoptera_frugiperda_(200211-0809).jpg