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How To Remove Mole Crickets

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Author Image Written by Brenda Woods + 1 other Fact Checked Icon Fact-checked Updated 05/09/2024

Mole crickets are strange-looking pests that can do serious damage to lawns in the Southeastern United States. These tenacious subsurface insects are equipped with clawed front legs perfect for digging through your lawn, tearing up your turfgrass, and feeding on the roots. Flushing your yard with soap and water is a simple way to detect an infestation, but you’ll likely need the help of a professional pest control company to get rid of them for good.

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Identifying Mole Crickets

Mole crickets have bodies like crickets and clawed front legs designed for digging through soil, similar in shape to a mole’s front paws. This combination gives mole crickets an appearance that’s a cross between a cricket and a crustacean.

Mole crickets are fine-haired and velvety, with three segmented body parts and three sets of legs, plus two antennae. Fully grown adults range in size from 1–2 inches long. Nymphs—the immature stage of mole crickets—are smaller and have no wings.

The two most common types of mole crickets are the tawny mole cricket and the southern mole cricket. Tawny mole crickets are tan and around an inch long (between 22 and 29 millimeters) as adults. Southern mole crickets are dark brown and are about 1.5 inches long when mature.

Unlike common crickets, mole crickets aren’t known for jumping, but they do chirp.


Signs of Mole Cricket Damage

Mole crickets are most likely to damage Bermuda grass and bahia grass. The telltale signs of mole crickets are disturbed soil, uneven footing, and dying grass. As mole crickets tunnel, they leave runways like moles do, as well as uprooted seedlings. As they burrow, mole crickets push up the soil, damaging the grass’s roots and creating dead, brown patches.

Tawny mole crickets are more destructive to lawns than southern mole crickets. While both species plow through the soil, tawny mole crickets actually feed on grass roots and shoots. On the other hand, southern mole crickets feed on the organisms in the soil. However, their burrowing may cause your grass to feel spongy when you walk on it since the turf has detached from the soil.

As the crickets mature and warm-season grasses slow down from their most active growth period, mole crickets do the greatest amount of damage. This usually occurs from late August to October, but timing varies depending on conditions such as moisture levels and soil temperature, as they impact feeding and tunneling habits.

When temperatures drop and winter begins, mole crickets begin to “overwinter” deep in the soil and can survive to plague your lawn. They will become active again in the spring, so it’s important to take steps to prevent overwintering.


Flushing Mole Crickets Out

There’s an effective test you can try if you think you’ve detected mole cricket activity. Mole crickets will burrow deep into dry soil but will emerge in most soil. Thus, you can flush them to the surface with a combination of dish soap and water.

Mix 2 tablespoons of liquid dishwashing detergent, like Dawn, with one gallon of water. Pour the mixture over a 2-square-foot area of your lawn. The mole crickets should pop out of the soil as the soap mixture sinks down. If you see two or more mole crickets surface, you need to take action. Mole crickets tend to infest the same area of grass every year, so it’s a good idea to take note of the area where the mole crickets emerged.


Mole Cricket Control Options

You can try chemical or non-chemical approaches to mole cricket removal. The best methods depend on the stage of the cricket’s life cycle. Summer treatment is effective on both nymphs and adults, while spring treatment is more effective against adults.

Natural options

Chemical options

An effective natural method for killing mole crickets is introducing beneficial nematodes into your soil. Steinernema scapterisci parasites infect the pests with bacteria, which then kills the cricket. This measure is more effective at killing adults than nymphs and may take a long time to show results. The best time to apply beneficial nematodes is either in early spring or fall.

The Larra bicolor parasitoid wasp has been introduced to the Southeastern U.S. as a natural predator of the mole cricket. Homeowners from Florida to North Carolina can plant certain flowering plants to attract these wasps, which are not aggressive and rarely sting humans. Shrubby false buttonweed, partridge pea, and starflower will all attract Larra wasps.

The two primary methods of chemical mole cricket control are baits and insecticides.

Baits

You can find mole cricket baits at garden centers or online. Baits containing grains and toxins have been shown to be effective. Place the baits in late summer or early fall, as this is when mole crickets feed. Be mindful of the weather forecast because rainfall can wash away the bait or render it ineffective. Do not water your lawn for at least two days after setting mole cricket bait.

Insecticides

Insecticides come in granular and liquid form. They fall into several major categories, including synthetic pyrethroids, neonicotinoids, and organophosphates. You might want to consider alternating the category type or use a product that contains two active ingredients since mole crickets can develop a resistance to specific pesticides over time. Read the instructions carefully. Typically, you will need to water the lawn after applying one of these insecticides. These are normally applied in early summer to kill small nymphs.

Applying insecticides can be hazardous. It might be best to leave this in the hands of a professional, especially since they require routine reapplication.


When To Treat Mole Crickets

After you’ve mapped out the affected area of your lawn, monitor it through the seasons. Examine it for signs of loose soil and poor growth in the winter and for tunneling in the spring.

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Wait until June and July to apply pesticides—the eggs will have hatched by this time, and the nymphs will be small and vulnerable. You can also apply additional chemical control as needed later in the summer.

Pesticides will be most effective in warm, moist soil—if the soil is dry, the mole crickets will burrow down deeper and be harder to target.

Ultimately, it is difficult to fully eradicate mole crickets because they burrow deeply into the soil. Your best bet might be to hire a professional lawn care company that protects lawns from mole crickets. A healthy lawn with strong roots and little thatch is less likely to suffer pest damage.


Mole Cricket Life Cycles

A generation of mole crickets typically occurs once per year—or twice, the farther south you go. Each generation has three stages in the life cycle: egg, nymph, and adult. Both nymphs and adults can survive winters underground. Around February and March, the nymphs will mature into adults, and the adults will seek to mate.

The males will die shortly after mating, and the females will lay a cluster of 2–40 eggs in an underground chamber. Females will lay about 100–150 eggs in a lifetime. In general, the eggs take about three weeks to hatch, but the warmer the soil temperature, the sooner they’ll hatch.

That means that by late spring or early summer, the nymphs will have grown large and hungry enough to cause extensive damage. However, because the warm-season grass is actively growing at this time, the damage can remain hidden until the weather cools down.


Mole Cricket Monitoring and Control

Pay careful attention to your lawn for signs of adult activity. Ideally, you would try to eliminate adults in the spring before they can tunnel or lay eggs. Then, you would eradicate any destructive nymphs that survived.

The most vulnerable time for nymph mole crickets is when they’re newly hatched in late spring and early summer. At this point, they’ll be about 1/4 inch long and won’t have burrowed too deeply into the soil, making it much easier to eliminate them than when they’ve doubled in size and dug deeper a few weeks later.


Our Conclusion

Professionals know how to handle mole cricket removal and can help with future prevention. Mole crickets are destructive at multiple stages, so expertise goes a long way in eliminating an infestation completely. We recommend getting quotes from multiple pest control companies before making your choice.

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FAQ About Removing Mole Crickets

Can mole crickets hurt you?

Mole crickets are not venomous, and they are not known to bite people. They could potentially pinch you with their large clawed forelegs, but that would only cause temporary pain and not leave any lasting damage.

What are the signs of mole crickets?

Signs of a mole cricket infestation include tunnels, raised mounds of dirt, dying grass, and uprooted seedlings.

How long do mole crickets live?

Mole crickets live for about a year.

Does soapy water kill mole crickets?

No, but soapy water is an effective way to flush them to the lawn’s surface to confirm that you have a mole cricket problem.

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