Video: Digging for leatherjackets in a lawn

By | 09/09/2019

The winter of 2018-2019 saw a large number of lawns devastated by leatherjackets. These grubs live in the soil, just under the surface of a lawn. They are the larval stage of crane flies (tipulidae). Eggs laid by the adults in the summer months. They hatch and the grubs then spend the winter days munching through grass plants, getting fat.

The damage they do to a lawn can be devastating. In this video, a customer does not know why their new lawn deteriorated over the winter. I suspected a leatherjacket infection and after some brief digging, find one of the culprits.

The Lawn Man finds a leatherjacket grub in a lawn.

Digging for leatherjackets

Leatherjacket damage is quite distinct from other lawn diseases or pest damage. If the pests are found by a larger predator such as a badger, damage can be terrible. If they have been left alone then, you should see something like this close up in the lawn:

Leatherjackets surface feeding evidence
Evidence of leatherjackets in a lawn. The RED arrow is a hole which the grub made to come to the surface. The BLUE arrows near the hole show grass plants eaten by the grub.

The pests eat grass plants from the top down. When temperatures are colder leatherjackets stay under the surface and eat the roots. Removing the insects may mean the lawn recover. If they continue to feast, the lawn will be doomed.

Digging for leatherjackets in this area should find the grubs just under the surface. My video shows how easy it is to find them.

What to do if I find leatherjackets?

Leatherjackets can be a difficult pest to treat. Government legislation withdrew all pesticide controls in 2015. Lawn professionals only have alternative methods to try to keep numbers down. Then repair the damage when the risk has passed. Have a look at my overall plan blog page for the steps to take to recover from an attack.

For current leatherjacket control methods, have a look at my complete guide to leatherjackets and PDF fact sheet for download.

If you have a problem with leatherjackets in your lawn and enjoy digging for leatherjackets but don’t know how to repair your lawn, get in touch.

Kris Lord

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