Q: Six weeks ago I had twenty pallets of Bermuda sod installed on my new home’s lawn. It was green when they put it down but within two weeks it was all brown. I watered it every day. Yesterday I pulled up some of the sod and found several brown insect cases under the sod plus a few black, greasy-looking caterpillars. My neighbor says they are armyworms – what do you say?
A: I have heard several complaints like yours each fall. When I went out to visit a site recently, I found just what you’ve described but the caterpillars were not armyworms.
Dr. Beverly Sparks, Extension entomologist, says they are sod cutworms. You can tell the difference because armyworms have a distinct “Y” on their foreheads while cutworms are universally described as “greasy-looking”.
Cutworms chew off the stems of plants at ground level. If your grass is completely brown, it may not recover from the damage. Examine it closely for tiny sprigs of green in order to judge your chances. In any case, you need to get rid of the cutworms first. Use an outdoor insecticide labeled for turf insects, applied to your whole yard.
Be sure to water the insecticide into the soil thoroughly afterwards to wash the poison down where the cutworms are living.