Common Summer Lawn Pests

Close-up of a stink bug

Ants, grubs, chinch bugs, webworms, and mole crickets are just a few common summer lawn pests that can damage your turf once the heat arrives. Some are nastier as larvae or nymphs, others do more harm to your grass as adults, and a few are simply too dangerous to have around your family.

In this guide, we explain how to spot their presence from afar, recognize each type of lawn bug with a closer look, and check for infestations with effective testing techniques. 

1. Armyworms

armyworm along a green stem with a pile of green eggs on its back
Judy Gallagher | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Armyworms typically attack Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue, fine fescue, Bermudagrass, and ryegrass. Most armyworms are spotted in lawns in late summer, but outbreaks have been reported as early as April in some cases.  

Each year, armyworms will produce three generations of larvae that can ravage your turf.

Turf damage: Armyworms munch on the grass stems and blades and leave behind scalped patches of turf.

Like many insects, armyworms have four life stages: egg, larvae (six states), pupa, and adult. With armyworms, over 93% of the feeding happens after the 4th larval state, according to Adam Gore, an extension agent for the Clemson College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Life Sciences.

Signs of an armyworm problem:

  • Brownish to ash-gray moths flying around in the evening
  • Circular scalped patches
  • Overnight destruction
  • Brown patches surrounded by healthy turf
  • Transparent-looking grass blades
  • More birds feeding on your lawn than usual

What do armyworms look like: Armyworms are caterpillar-like larvae of moths, 1–2 inches long, ranging in color from brown to yellow, red, and green. They typically have contrasting stripes along their bodies, with a wider band covering the top. 

Adult moths are about 1 inch and a half across and have two pairs of dark gray front wings with light and dark marks and pale gray hind wings.

Where they live: East of the Rocky Mountains and most common in the southern states.

How to check for armyworms: Mix 3 tablespoons of dish soap and 1 gallon of water. Combine and pour over any patches that appear infected. Within a few minutes, armyworm larvae should rise to the surface. Use the soap flush test at night when armyworms are most active or early in the morning. 

If you count more than three armyworms per square foot, it’s time to take action. Our guide, “How to Get Rid of Armyworms”, explains the most effective ways to control these grass-eating insects.

2. Chinch bugs

Christina Butler from Georgia | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

Female chinch bugs lay tiny whitish to orange eggs in the thatch layer and the folds of grass blades from late spring to early summer. Two to four weeks later, orange nymphs emerge, turning purple to grayish and black as they feed and grow into adults. 

Chinch bugs become active when temperatures exceed 70 degrees Fahrenheit and cause the most damage in the summer, especially in July and August, when more than one generation feast on your turf. 

However, they can infest Florida lawns year-round and are a constant battle for homeowners in the Gulf Coast region. 

Turf damage: Chinch bugs have piercing mouthpieces and damage turf by sucking water and nutrients from grass stems and leaving behind a phytotoxin that kills the plant.

Signs of a chinch bug problem: 

  • Mature chinch bugs or large nymphs on sidewalks or light-colored buildings
  • Slowed or stunted turf growth
  • Large, scattered patches of yellow or brown grass that extend outward
  • Irregular brown spots that increase rapidly
  • Drought symptoms that watering doesn’t fix

Chinch bugs gather in the thatch layer and are typically found near hot surfaces, such as driveways, sidewalks, and other hardscaping that bakes in the sun. 

What do chinch bugs look like: The mature bugs are black, with a signature mark — an X-shape — on their backs and white wings. They grow about ⅕ inches long (roughly the width of a small paperclip). 

Nymphs are even smaller, don’t have wings, and bear orange to purple markings on their bodies. 

Where they live: All across the United States. If you live in the North, you commonly deal with the hairy chinch bug (Blissus hirtus), which prefers ryegrass and fescues. The southern chinch bug (Blissus insularis) is particularly drawn to St. Augustine grass. 

It also has been known to infest Bermudagrass, bahiagrass, centipedegrass, and Zoysiagrass, but with minor damages. 

How to check for chinch bugs: “The adults are very noticeable in size, so if you suspect chinch bugs are causing damage, part the grass where damage is present and wait for them to crawl past,” advises Christine Jackson, an extension office agent for the University of Florida. 

You also can use the tin can test. Read more about chinch bug identification, control, and prevention in our guide, “How to Get Rid of Chinch Bugs in Your Lawn”.

3. Cutworms

brown cutworm eating the inside of an ear of corn
Sarah Zukoff | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Cutworms are most active at night, so you rarely spot them while munching on grass. But you might spot the tiny, round, and whitish eggs laid one by one on the tips of grass leaves in late spring to early summer. 

A few days later, the eggs hatch into caterpillars, which burrow into the thatch and soil and emerge to feed at night. After 2-4 weeks, the caterpillars become smooth, brown, torpedo-shaped pupae (cocoons) that will transform into adult moths.

Turf damage: Cutworms chew on grass stems and leaves, cutting the turfgrass at the thatch level, like tiny lawnmowers.

Signs you have a cutworm problem:

  • Small holes in your lawn overnight (caterpillar burrows)
  • Round spots of shortened grass similar to the indentations golf balls make on the turf when landing with speed 
  • Grass cut down to the base
  • Destroyed plant seedlings
  • Wilting grass blades

What do cutworms look like: Most are about 2 inches long with spots or stripes and brown or gray-colored bodies. As adults, they are black and brown-colored moths. 

Where they live: Throughout the United States. Outbreaks are more common in the Great Plains and Rocky Mountain regions.

How to check for cutworms in your lawn: Dig into an infected area of your lawn after sundown. Feel free to throw on some gardening gloves and sift around the soil to find these curly caterpillars (they’ll curl up into a C-shape when disturbed). 

If you detected cutworms in your lawn, learn all about effective control methods from our guide, How to get rid of cutworms.

4. Fire ants

Fire ants group
Marufish | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

There are over 700 ant species in the United States, many of which can make lawn chores a hassle, enter your home, and infest your pantry, but fire ants are the worst. They’ll swarm out and attack you if you accidentally disturb their nest. A fire ant sting is very painful and can trigger allergic reactions in some people.

Turf damage: Any damage to your turfgrass comes from mature ants digging and building their nest or eating newly spread grass seed. However, fire ants are aggressive and sting if disturbed, making your lawn dangerous for barefooting and playing around.

Signs of an ant problem: 

  • Ants marching into your home
  • Multiple anthills across your lawn in flat, sunny areas. They can be up to 2 feet tall and don’t have a hole on top.
  • Many ants crawling around food and trash next to your home.

What do fire ants look like: These small insects (1/8″ to 1/4″ in length) are reddish in color, have six legs, elbowed antennae, and a narrow waist with a swollen abdomen. 

Where they live: They are most common in the southern United States, from Maryland to Texas, California, and New Mexico. 

How to check for fire ants: Look around the yard for ant mounds without holes. They’re most often placed in flat, sunny areas and can reach up to 2 feet in height if allowed.

Many effective methods exist to eliminate these stingy beasts from your yard, starting with boiling water. Our guide, “How to Get Rid of Fire Ants,” teaches you how to check for fire ants in your yard and effective pest control techniques.

5. Fleas

Erturac | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0

Flea bites are not only itchy and irritating and can lead to pet hair loss, but they can also transmit diseases and tapeworms. Most homeowners deal with “cat fleas,” which can leech onto dogs, cats, humans, and other animals. 

Flea activity peaks from spring to early autumn.

Turf damage: Fleas don’t damage the turfgrass but hide in your lawn in areas with tall grass, plenty of shade, and lots of moisture, waiting to climb on your pets or your clothing.

Signs of a flea problem: 

  • Your pet itching nonstop after playing outside
  • Miniscule flea dirt, which looks like tiny black dots, on top of indoor and outdoor surfaces
  • Flea bites, which are typically rows of red bites below the knee
  • Fleas crawling on your pet
  • Fleas clinging onto your arm or leg hair, pants, or other articles of clothing

What do fleas look like: Fleas are tiny, blood-sucking insects that jump around and can transmit disease to animals and humans. They are black or brown, about 1/12 inch long, have six legs, and can jump up to 200 times their body length (13 inches). 

Where they live: Over 300 species of fleas are spread across the United States, with more common outbreaks occurring in Texas, California, and New Mexico.

How to check for fleas: Wear knee-length white socks and walk around your backyard. If fleas are jumping around, you should see a few clinging to your socks. When you’re done, place the socks in a plastic bag or sealed container and toss them into your outdoor trash can.

Learn what methods you can use to control fleas from our guides:

6. Greenbug aphids 

two Greenbug aphids on a plant
Kent Loeffler | Wikimedia Commons | Public Domain

Greenbug aphids (Schizaphis graminum) are the most common aphid species that feed on plants from the grass family, including turfgrasses such as Kentucky bluegrass, annual bluegrass, fescues, and perennial ryegrass. 

Each female can produce one to eight offspring daily for two to three weeks. Young aphids reach maturity in six to 10 days and can reproduce without mating, leading to 12 to 20 generations per season.

Turf damage: Aphids feed on the plant juices and inject a toxin that kills a portion of the leaf around the bite site, explains Donald Lewis from the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. “Early damage symptoms consist of a barely detectable yellowing of the turf,” says Lewis.

Signs of an aphid infestation:

  • Honeydew secretions on leaves
  • Curling or twisted leaves
  • Dead plant shoots
  • Stunted plant growth
  • The presence of lady beetles, lacewings, parasitic wasps, and other natural enemies 
  • Plant viruses (misshapen, mottled, or yellowed leaves and produce) 

What do aphids look like: Aphids are soft-bodied insects, 1/16 to ⅛ inches long (between a chia seed and a sesame seed), with pear-shaped bodies. Green bug aphids are light green and don’t have wings.

Where they live: Aphids live all across the United States. Greenbug aphids can’t survive northern winters and migrate north from the southern states each year, from April to June.

How to check for aphids: Pull some green grass blades around the outer edge of yellow or brown patches. Use a magnifying lens to check for aphids. According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, each infested grass blade may support more than 30 green bugs.

If aphids are wreaking havoc in your garden, try using neem, insecticidal soap, pyrethrins, or horticultural oil. Read more about aphid control in our guide, “How to Get Rid of Aphids.”

7. Mole crickets

Mole cricket
oliver.dodd | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Mole cricket eggs hatch in late spring to early summer (May to June). The larvae go through seven to 10 nymph stages, during which the insects tunnel extensively, searching for food. 

The larger they grow, the more they harm your lawn, exposing the soil to desiccation and the grass to fungal diseases such as root rot. They cause the most damage in summer and early fall. 

Some nymphs become adults by winter, others overwinter as nymphs and become adults next spring. 

Turf damage: Mole crickets dig tunnels under your lawn and feast on the roots and leaves of your grass, causing drought-like symptoms and patches of brown, dying grass. 

Signs of a mole cricket infestation:

  • Irregular brown patches 
  • Patches with drought symptoms (wilted, dry, yellow, or tan grass blades)
  • Mounds of dirt striping your lawn (from mole cricket tunneling)
  • Weak grassroots with grass pulling up from the ground easily
  • Spots where weeds replace grass

What do mole crickets look like: As adults, mole crickets are 1 to 2 inches long, with six legs, long antennae, and a pair of wings. They have cricket-like, grayish-brown bodies and large eyes.

Where they live: Common throughout the eastern United States, but especially in the southeastern states.

How to check for mole crickets: 

  • Mix together 1 gallon of water with 1-2 ounces of dish soap. 
  • Locate about 2 square feet of your yard that seems infested. 
  • Pour the mixture over this area and wait to see if any mole crickets emerge.

If mole crickets are damaging your turf, you must act fast. Learn the most effective pest control methods from our guide, “How to Get Rid of Mole Crickets.”

8. Sod webworms

Sod webworm
Sean Clifford | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Sod webworms are little caterpillars that build silky weblike tunnels in the thatch layer and soil. When the weather warms up in late spring to early summer, overwintering larvae emerge from their tunnels and restart feeding, causing visible damage through June and July.

Around July, larvae turn into adults, mate, and lay eggs. By August, another round of sod webworm damage is noticeable around the lawn.

If you live in the South, you deal with the third generation in September: adults lay eggs, and new larvae emerge and feed on your turf. In colder zones, the third generation of larvae goes deep into the soil and is dormant throughout the winter.

Turf damage: In their larvae stage, these pests munch on grass stems and leaves. Adult moths don’t damage the grass. 

Signs of a sod webworm problem:

  • Tan-colored moths flying around the yard
  • Baseball-size spots of shortened grass that go straight from green to brown
  • Silk webbing in the thatch layer
  • Small brown spots grow and merge together, forming large patches of dead grass
  • Webworm feces (tiny green pellets) 

What do sod webworms look like: Around an inch long, sod webworms have gray, brown, or green bodies, brown heads, and dark spots. 

Adult moths are off-white, tan, or tan-colored and can be seen flying short distances across the lawn. 

Where they live: All across the United States but are the most common turfgrass pests in the Rocky Mountain Region.

How to check for sod webworms: Combine ¼ cup of household detergent with 2 gallons of water. Pour this solution over a 3-foot patch of your lawn that appears to have sod webworm damage. If your lawn is infested, the webworms should appear at the top of your lawn within 10 minutes. 

If you count more than 15 sod webworms, it’s time to take action. Learn all about sod webworm control from our guide, “How to Get Rid of Sod Webworms in Your Lawn.”

9. Spittlebugs

Pavel Kirillov | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 2.0

Spittlebugs lay eggs in late summer. They survive winter in plant debris and hatch in early to mid-spring. Nymphs quickly find host plants and start feeding. They love to feast on centipedegrass but also infest bermudagrass, St. Augustine, bahiagrass, and Zoysia.

“After only five minutes of active feeding, these pale-yellow nymphs will begin to excrete a white-frothy spittle from which they get their name,” says Jacob Kelly, regional extension agent for Alabama Cooperative Extension System. 

They’ll turn into adults in late spring to early summer when you see them jumping across the lawn.

Turf damage: Hidden under the tiny spittle bubbles you can see on grass leaves, the nymphs are the most damaging stage of this lawn bug, sucking the juice out of turfgrass plants and leaving them to wilt and die. 

Signs of a spittlebug infestation: 

  • Black bugs with two bright lines jump from the grass when you walk around the lawn
  • White, frothy spittle on the leaves of grass and ornamentals
  • Plant leaves and stems feel sticky to the touch

What do spittlebugs look like: The nymphs are light green to light brown in color and are covered in frosty foam that protects them from predators and extreme weather conditions. 

They evolve into black adult insects with wings and bright yellow, orange, or red stripes on their bodies. 

Where they live: They’re found all across the United States but are more common in Southern lawns. 

How to check for spittlebugs: Walk around the lawn and look for their tell-tale foamy spit on turfgrass. Most of the time, it hides spittlebug nymphs.

The spittle foam protects nymphs from pesticides, so it’s better to hire a professional who uses the right products if a chemical approach is needed. Learn more about controlling these lawn insects from our guide, How to get rid of spittlebugs.

10. Stink bugs

closeup image of stink bug on a leaf
Ton Rulkens | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 2.0

The brown marmorated stink bug is an invasive, annoying, and smelly species. Stink bugs can mate multiple times in the year, resulting in up to three new generations (especially in warmer climates). 

Adults become active late winter to early spring. In late spring to early summer, they lay clusters of barrel-shaped eggs on the underside of leaves or in litter near host plants.

These pests are a serious problem for fruits, ornamental plants, and garden crops. 

Turf damage: Stink bugs won’t damage your grass, but they often use your lawn weeds and ornamentals for shelter, to lay eggs, and as a home base for attacking garden produce and getting into your home. 

Signs of a stink bug problem: 

  • Foul odor
  • Fruits and vegetables that appear bruised and discolored 
  • Small, circle-shaped scars on fruit and vegetables
  • Plants, especially fruit-producing plants, appear damaged
  • Plants with yellow or green discoloration surrounding pin prick marks

What do stink bugs look like: Stink bugs can grow up to 1 inch long and are brown with six legs, antennae, and a shield-shaped shell. They release an odor when frightened (and killed) and make a buzzing sound when they fly. 

Where they live: Most of the United States with the highest concentration in the mid-Atlantic region.

How to check for stink bugs: Lay down a white cloth underneath shrubs or trees around your lawn. Give each plant a good shake and check for fallen stink bugs on the cloth.

Stink bugs can be controlled with organic pesticides like essential oils or chemical products. Learn more about keeping stink bugs away from your property in our guide, How to get rid of stink bugs.

11. Ticks

close-up of a tock on a green leaf
Thomas Shahan | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Ticks have a four-stage life cycle. They start as eggs, continue as six-legged larvae, then eight-legged nymphs, and finally become adults. After they hatch, ticks must eat a blood meal at every stage to survive and evolve. 

Ticks can commonly be found in or around:

  • Piles of firewood
  • Thick vegetation
  • Forested areas
  • Plant debris
  • Tall grass, plants, and bushes

Turf damage: Ticks don’t damage the lawn but threaten the health of your pets and your family since they carry Lyme disease and other dangerous illnesses like Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Rickettsia parkeri, and Alpha-gal syndrome

Signs of a tick problem: Many people don’t notice they have a tick bite until they see the tiny, oval-shaped body sticking out of their skin or see a rash. Ticks are most active during the warm months, from April to September, but in some areas, they can be a year-round annoyance. 

What do ticks look like: Tick larvae are as small as a grain of sand. Nymphs are about the size of a sesame seed, while adult ticks have eight legs and are similar to an apple seed in size. When they feed, they swell like tiny balloons.

Where they live: The black dog tick is spread all across the United States, while the black-legged tick and the brown dog tick have been spotted mainly east of the Mississippi River.

How to check for ticks: Always check for ticks after spending a lot of time outdoors, especially if you are around tall patches of grass or forested areas. Start from your toes, ankles, and legs, and work up to your hair. Check your clothing and shoes, too. 

Use tweezers to carefully remove any you find on your body. Monitor for a rash or fever for a couple of weeks, and consult a doctor if symptoms develop. 

An acaricide (tick pesticide) can help reduce the number of ticks in your yard if you notice a particularly pesky infestation. Learn more about controlling ticks from our guides:

12. White grubs

White grub on soil
Patty O’Hearn Kickham | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

White grubs, known as “nature’s dethatchers,” are the larvae of scarab beetles and chafers. Most beetle eggs hatch in late summer, and the larvae cause the most damage during August and September. Depending on the climate, grub activity can extend up to November. 

During winter, the larvae go deep into the soil for warmth and return in late spring and early summer when the soil temperature exceeds 50 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Turf damage: Grubs live in the thatch and soil, feed on grass roots, and damage the roots by tunneling around your lawn. The affected grass becomes unable to feed, wilts, and dies.

Signs you have a grub problem:

  • Irregular patches of wilted, brown, or dead grass
  • Dry patches of grass
  • A spongy feeling when you walk on the turf
  • Turf lifts easily like a carpet (because there are no healthy roots to keep the grass grounded)

What do grubs look like: These common lawn pests are white-colored, fleshy, wrinkled, wormlike creatures. They form a C-shape, have a tan or brown head, three pairs of legs, and range from 0.75 to 2 inches long.

Adult beetles have an oval shape, clubbed antennae, and a stout body. They range in color from green to brown and black and are mainly active during the night.

Where they live: East of the Rocky Mountains, going further west in recent years due to climate changes. 

How to check for grubs: Use a shovel or lawn edger to cut a square-foot (frisbee-sized) section of your lawn. Peel back the grass, and use your hand to dig around up to 3 inches of the soil. Count the number of grubs you spot. You deal with a grub infestation if you find 10 or more grubs. 

If  you’re sure that white grubs are munching on your lawn, learn the most effective pest control strategies for grubs from our guides:

Call the pest control pros!

Use the power of a local pest control expert to fight those pesky pests. Find the best pest control services in your area with Pest Gnome and enjoy a healthy, lush, pest-free lawn!


Main Image Credit: Illuvis | Pixabay

Sinziana Spiridon

Sinziana Spiridon is an outdoorsy blog writer with a green thumb and a passion for organic gardening. When not writing about weeds, pests, soil, and growing plants, she's tending to her veggie garden and the lovely turf strip in her front yard.