Control Billbugs Before They Control Your Course

Billbug damage is frequently confused with other turfgrass problems on golf courses. Damage from billbugs can be diagnosed as many ailments, including disease and white grubs, but nothing that should treat the problem works. Knowing more about billbugs can save time, patience, and money.

Out of the different types of billbugs in the ATS Service area, the bluegrass and hunting billbug do the majority of the damage we see. In cool-season turf, like Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and fine and tall fescue, the bluegrass billbug is primarily encountered. In warm-season turf, like bermuda and zoysia, the hunting billbug is mostly found. Bermuda fields are becoming popular in the northern part of the Midwest and, as a result, hunting billbugs could become more of an issue there.

Bluegrass billbugs overwinter as adults and are gray to black in color. Adult bluegrass billbugs that survived overwintering become active when soil temperatures start to increase to 50 degrees (up to 65 degrees at the surface). Many active bluegrass billbugs can be seen crawling across sidewalks during the day when they become active.

It is at this active time that bluegrass billbug females chew holes in turfgrass stems and lay their eggs in the top of the crown or leaf sheath. After those eggs hatch and the larvae are bigger, they feed on turfgrass roots and crowns, causing significant damage.

Hunting billbugs, which are a reddish-brown color, can overwinter either as larvae or as an adult, so mixed generations can occur when they are active. If hunting billbugs are found in more northern areas, the mixed generations are less likely to occur there than in the Southern states.

Hunting billbugs still achieve the same damage as their bluegrass billbug counterparts. However, with the possibility of two generations, the adults also feed at the same time as the larvae.

Note: Billbug larvae look similar to white grubs. Both white grubs and billbugs have a white body and chestnut-colored face. The billbug larvae are, however, also smaller and legless.

billbug larva close-up illustration

Billbug damage will typically begin appearing in July. When diagnosing for bluegrass billbugs, use the tug test. Select a piece of turf that is not recovering. Pull on the turf. If it easily pulls up and the stems appear to break off with ease, check for a dusty-like material, called frass, protruding out of the end of those stems. Billbug larva feeding produces frass. The tug test can be used to diagnose the hunting billbug, too. However, zoysia and bermuda stolons and rhizomes should also be checked for damage.


Control Options

Aloft from Nufarm works great at controlling billbugs. Aloft fights billbugs quickly with preventative and curative control.

Do not put these billbug applications down on waterlogged soils.

For more information on treating billbugs, please contact your local ATS rep.


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