Golf courses looks hide poisons and unconquerable pests -mole crickets

Creating a vibrating singing phone booth (a tunnel or gallery ), the male prairie mole cricket, Gryllotalpa major, native of the tall grass prairie of the south central U.S., constructs a specialized mole-cricketacoustical burrow in the spring in the prairie soil from which he generates an airborne calling song that attracts flying females for mating.

Three species of mole crickets, so named for their ground burrowing activity (S. abbreviatus, S. acletus and S. vicinus), were accidentally introduced to the southeastern United States about 80 years ago. Since that time these pest crickets have caused millions of dollars in damage to grasses, pastures, seedlings of vegetables, ornamentals and tobacco in Florida, Georgia and Alabama the climate provides mild winters, and ideal geometric population growth and insuing destruction .

Biological Control Method

A pregnant fly  (Ormia depleta) is attracted to the singing/courting male Mole cricket and lays its eggs on the male and any females near him. When the  larvae hatch they burrow into and develop inside redflythe adult mole crickets, killing the crickets in about seven days. The fly does well at sites where adult flies have access to rich landscaping; many flowering trees and shrubs, some of which doubtless provide the nectar that adult flies need as an energy source.  This natural enemy of the cricket does not work perfectly, so the search continues for more effective  ways to control these mole crickets.

The more effective method of bio-control is Biological control of mole crickets can be enhanced by the application of the entomopathogenic nematode Steinernema scapterisci which is sprayed on sprayed as a suspension in water to soil, and is fairly persistent in the soil. It is more effective when applied to adults than when applied to nymphs. In areas where parasitism of crickets by insects is low, the South American parasitoids mentioned above can be introduced.

The best cultural practice for mole cricket managment on turfgrass is to maintain the turf in the healthiest condition possible, allowing the grass to recover from injury by mole crickets. This entails proper use of irrigation and fertilization, and also proper mowing height.

Host plant resistance. Efforts have been made to find turf and pasture grass varieties that are resistant to attack by mole crickets. If grass varieties contain antibiotic properties, or otherwise limit the reproductive abilities of mole crickets, this can translate into fewer crickets. Thus far, strains have been identified which are fairly tolerant of feeding or which are not preferred by mole crickets, primarily the finer textured grass selections, but considerable improvement in these grasses is needed before they can affect cricket population biology.

Biological control. Biological control of mole crickets can be enhanced by the application of the entomopathogenic nematode Steinernema scapterisci and possibly to a lesser degree by other entomopathogenic nematodes. This nematode can be purchased from commercial suppliers, sprayed as a suspension in water to soil, and is fairly persistent in the soil. It is more effective when applied to adults than when applied to nymphs. In areas where parasitism of crickets by insects is low, the South American parasitoids mentioned previously under “natural enemies” can be introduced.

Mole crickets, Scapteriscus spp., cause nearly $100 million in 2003 alone  to cattle producers in south-central Florida, with about 50% of that loss due to reduced forage and hay production and 50% due to need for pasture renovation. Mole cricket damage to pasture and turf grasses principally is caused by the mole cricket feeding on roots, and by shallow tunneling (galleries) by both S. vicinus and the southern mole cricket, S. borellii. Damage first appears as yellow patches of grass that later turn brown and die.

The tunnel architecture of three species of mole crickets as seen in the tunnel castings of the tawny mole cricket, Scapteriscus vicinus Scudder and the southern mole cricket are made in loamy turf/burmuda grass covered ground,  the African mole crickets, Gryllotalpa africana, almost always exhibit a “Y” shape upper tunnel structure and is found in clay soil. The tunnel castings of the southern mole cricket, Scapteriscus borellii Giglio-Tos, are typically an inverted “Y” shape. Tunnels of tawny mole crickets typically go deeper into the sandy loam soil and are usually more complex than the other two species.

Tawny and southern mole cricket tunnel castings were made on the driving range of OysterBay Golf Course, Brunswick County, NC, during 1998 to 2000. The turfgrass on the driving range was hybrid bermuda grass, Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers. in sandy loam soil. African mole cricket tunnel castings were made in typical heavy clay soil at Silver Lakes Golf and Country Club, Pretoria, South Africa. The turfgrass on the fairway was Kikuyu grass, Pennisetum clandestinum Hochst. ex

Traditionally, insecticides have been applied to control the crickets

These methods are expensive, environmentally unsafe, and are not always effective. Golfers pay for and have come to expect high playing standards and well-maintained courses. All this comes at a significant cost to the environment.

Overwhelming the turf with herbicides, fungicides and insecticides is dangerous for

people visiting and living around the course, wildlife big and small, pets and detrimental to the environment.

The insect, herbaceous weed, and fungal infestations of golf courses are numerous and costly. A survey taken in 1993 “of 52 Long Island, NY, golf courses revealed that collectively they applied 21 different herbicides, 20 fungicides, and eight insecticides annually, totaling around 50,000 pounds of active chemical ingredients.

Joseph Okoniewski, Chief of New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation, notes that

if you scraped a golf green and tested it, you’d have to cart it away to a hazardous waste facility’ (Grossmann 1993)”.

Mole cricket damage to golf course greens and fairways and ranchlands, caused by the feeding, burrowing, and mound building of the three species of crickets, is extensive; and so far, control methods have resulted in only moderate success. A biological control method is clearly needed to safely, effectively and economically limit or eradicate mole cricket populations.
References

Annual Report, 15th, Mole Cricket Research 92-93. 1993. University of Florida, Gainesville, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), Entomology and Nematology Department, 199 pp. (unpublished). USA http://www.scirpus.ca/cap/articles/paper001.htm

Florida Entomologist 85(2):383-385. 2002

TUNNEL ARCHITECTURES OF THREE SPECIES OF MOLE CRICKETS (ORTHOPTERA: GRYLLOTALPIDAE) – Rick L. Brandenburga, Yulu Xiaa, A. S. Schoemanbhttp://www.bioone.org/

Image 1.  Female mole cricket courtesy of SaltWater fish.com saltwaterfish.com

Image 2. Brazilian redfly courtesy of Entomology Dept. IFAS.EDU entomology.ifas.ufl.edu/molecrickets

Cricket tunnels http://www.bioone.org/action

Pictures of life cycle entomology.ifas.ufl.edu/molecrickets/

SONG PATTERNS of mole crickets geocities.com/brisbaneMoleCricket

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