Managing the Crane Fly Threat for Turfgrass
As with all turfgrass pests, it’s important to start by looking at the specific species involved and their life cycle. The two species of crane fly that are damaging to turfgrass are the European crane fly (Tipula paludosa) and common crane fly (Tipula oleracea). The adult stage of both pests looks like a giant mosquito, but they do not damage turf. These crane flies typically lay their eggs in August and September. The larvae, called “leatherjackets” because of their tough skin, grow to become nearly an inch-long and look like a brown caterpillar with no head or legs. A second generation of common crane fly adults may also emerge in the spring. The best time to initiate your crane fly management strategies in the fall, as this is the time that both species will lay eggs.
Preventing Turf Damage
Damage can occur in the fall (October) from the first or second instars, but most damage generally occurs in April and May from the larger third instar leatherjackets, which feed primarily on the foliar parts of the plants. The insects remain underground on bright days but will come to the surface to feed on damp, warm nights. They also may be visible feeding above ground on dark, cloudy days. Damage is usually seen as a thinning of otherwise healthy-looking turf, but this can progress to complete defoliation.
Effective Cultural Control
Crane flies thrive in moist soils and favor areas with thatch buildup. Managing thatch levels and decreasing irrigation at the time of egg laying may significantly reduce larval populations. Egg survivability is dependent upon adequate soil moisture.
An early fall application of Merit® Granular, applied at 580 g per 100m2 is effective for controlling early instar larvae. Merit® Granular contains the active ingredient imidacloprid, which offers powerful systemic suppression of crane fly larvae when used according to label directions.
For more information about Merit® Granular, crane flies, or recommended turfgrass strategies, contact your local Territory Sales Manager or visit our Merit Granular product page.
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