Dead Grass in Your Lawn? You May have Bluegrass Billbugs

Throughout the course of a growing season, grass can be affected by several damaging insects. One of these is the bluegrass billbug. It gets its name from the long snout or “bill” that it uses to chew on leaves and stems. However, it is the larvae of these insects that cause considerable damage. Adult billbugs are usually seen in spring, and then again in early fall. Damage from their larvae usually appears in July. This damage begins as discolored, irregularly shaped patches. These patches turn yellow/brown, and when the damage is most severe, the turf can be lifted out of the soil with ease. To better understand the when’s and why’s of billbugs and their damage, it’s good to understand their life cycle.

Identification & Life Cycle

Adult billbugs are about ¼” long, with a brown/black body. The distinguishing characteristic is the long, curved snout and bent antennae. The larvae of the bluegrass billbug looks very much like the dreaded white grub, only they are considerably smaller. They have a white, fleshy body with a small orange/red head.

Adults emerge from “hibernation” in the spring and chew small holes in the leaves and stems of turf plants. This damage is not harmful to the plant. They will then lay their eggs in these holes. Those eggs hatch in June/July, and these larvae are voracious eaters. They will chew their way through the plant down towards the “crown”, which is an area near ground level where growth originates. 

Here are a few pictures of the damage caused by billbugs, up-close and from a distance:

Control of Bluegrass Billbugs

The saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” certainly applies when dealing with these creatures! The best way to treat them is with a preventative insecticide aimed at eliminating billbugs in their larval stage. The product that UltraLawn uses for its grub preventer is also effective on the larvae of bluegrass billbugs. Should you or residents in the Cedar Rapids or Iowa City area have any questions or concerns, feel free to give the experts at UltraLawn a call and we’ll be happy to assist you!

Common Questions or FAQs about Our Lawn Care

Lawn Care FAQs

Do you do any granular applications?

We apply 4 granular applications and 2 liquid. We choose the application method based on what is most effective for the time of year.

What’s the difference between liquid and granular applications?

Weed control is always best applied in liquid form as we can control exactly where the product goes.  Our fertilizer has slow release properties whether it’s in liquid or granular form.

What does your fertilizer consist of?

We use a different fertilizer each time we’re there.  We apply the proper amount of the proper nutrients throughout the season.

When do you apply the Grub preventer application?

During the same visit as our Summer application.

Can I buy some of your fertilizer?

No, we do not sell our fertilizer. We provide the service of applying it for you.

Can I do some seeding after your first application?

No, the 1st application contains pre-emergent crabgrass control, which prevents seed to germinate. If you do wish to seed it is best to bring a layer of soil in to cover the area then do your seeding.  FYI, the best time of year to seed is August or September.

Do I need to water-in my applications?

Yes, if you would like the product to become active. Otherwise, it will become active once it has come in contact with moisture.

Will your first application kill the dandelions?

No. Typically, the 1st application is applied before dandelions are actively growing and therefore weed control at that time is ineffective.

Should I rake my lawn before the first application? (still have leaves from last fall)

Light raking is good before or after this treatment.  If there is matted down grass it is always best to rake lightly to help the surface breathe and allow for a faster green up.

Do you Power Rake?  What do you do about thatch problems in lawns?

We do Power Rake, however, we recommend you Aerate once a year as Aeration does not cause stress on your lawn like Power Raking does. Aeration helps reduce thatch and compaction at the same time, and it’s usually cheaper!

What causes thatch problems?

It is natural for lawns to develop a thatch issue if aeration is not performed on a regular basis. 

I have children/pets, will this application be harmful to them?

Our applications are thoroughly tested and are approved for use where children and pets will be playing. The EPA performs roughly 120 tests on the products we’re using before they get approved for use. 

My application was just done, can my kids/pets be back on the lawn now?

We recommend you have pets/children stay off the lawn until the liquid applications that we apply have time to dry, which can vary from 1 to 3 hours depending on the humidity and so on. With granular applications you can re-enter the lawn immediately following our treatment.

I have a very narrow gate at my back yard, will your aerator fit through it?

Our aerators can only fit into a 36” gate.

I have moles, the master gardener said to spray for insects.  Will insect spray eradicate the moles?

No, you will need to trap or try a bait for the moles in order to eradicate them from your lawn. A grub preventer is not a mole preventer. The main food source for moles is earth worms and you wouldn’t want to hurt them as they help your lawn.

My lawn is very bumpy.  Do you roll lawns?

No, rolling of lawns counteracts the effects of an Aeration. It makes your lawn compacted.

I have an acreage and can only afford 2 applications.  Which ones should I take?

We would recommend a minimum of 3 applications so you will not have crabgrass, however, if this is not feasible then Late Spring and Early Fall would be the best options if dandelions are your biggest concern.  We can get limited control of crabgrass and dandelion control with the Early Spring and Early Fall treatments.

Does it cost more per application if I take three or less applications?

Yes, it does.

3 apps = an extra $5 per, 2 apps = an extra $10 per, and 1 app = an extra $20 per.

It rained right after my application.  Now what?

If it was a granular applications, great! The rain will help the product become active. If it was a liquid application, a light rain will only help the nutrients get deeper into the soil.  If it was a heavy rain it is possible for the weed control to be affected; in this case remember we provide free service calls, if you have weeds that don’t die after a couple weeks please let us know and we’ll re-treat free of charge.

I know the square footage of my lawn.  What is the cost to spray _____ sq feet?

Let us get that price for you. We will always measure your lawn for our own records.

I know I’ve missed the first application, but can I still prepay for the remaining applications and receive the discount?

Yes, you may. We can get you a total discount for prepaying.

I don’t believe in chemicals.  Do you offer only mowing?

No, we do not offer just mowing. We do have 2 Organic options for you, one that does provide weed control and one that is 100% Organic which does not.

My lawn mower broke.  Can you mow my lawn today?

Unfortunately, not today. Give us a call and we’ll see what we can do as quickly as possible.

My grass is over a foot tall & my mower can’t cut it.  Can you mow my lawn?

No, we do not have the proper equipment to do this type of work.

Do you take credit cards?

Yes, we do accept credit cards for payment. We just do not accept credit/debit cards for prepayments due to third party fees. If you wish to prepay with a credit card, that’s fine however the discount will not apply.  Did you know you can set up auto pay?

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