Small Moving Specks on the Windowsill?

No you are not imagining this. The specks are actually moving. That is because they are actually tiny mites called clover mites. Clover mites can become annoying household pests, especially in and around homes where new lawns have recently been established or where there’s a heavy growth of well-fertilized grass close to foundation walls. They enter a home from outside and often become most active near sunny areas – why you see them on windowsills.
These tiny mites feed on grasses, clovers and certain other plants in the lawn and around the home. They often crawl into cracks and crevices to molt and lay eggs. Typical “hiding places” are under the loose bark of trees, on foundations walls, beneath siding and around window frames.
Clover mites are most abundant in the fall and spring and are relatively inactive during the hot summer months and again during cold weather. They migrate into homes either when population pressure becomes too great or when feeding conditions become unfavorable, such as the onset of hot or cold weather.

Clover mites are very tiny as can be seen on this ruler. Under magnification, however, they are reddish in color and have characteristically long front legs.

The mites are very tiny creatures (smaller than a pin head) and may occur in countless numbers. They usually appear first around windows, but later may overrun entire walls of a home. To most people they appear as tiny, moving, black specks. Under magnification, however, they are reddish in color and have characteristically long front legs. This character helps separate them from the hundreds of other different mites.

Clover mites can be prevented from entering a home or building by using perimeter treatments. These may be either physical or chemical. A physical barrier can be established by separating turfgrass (where the mites feed) from the perimeter wall of the building. A strip of clean cultivated soil or stone, free of grasses, that extends 18 – 24 inches out from the foundation is usually sufficient to deter these mites from crossing. Ornamental plants that are not clovers or grasses may be added to increase the attractiveness.

Chemical barrier treatments may be applied to the outside foundation perimeter (three feet high and three feet out). Soaps as well as pyrethroid insecticides have been shown to be effective IF applied during the times that the mites are on the move.

Use of chemicals inside the home is not recommended. Remember that these mites do not directly damage the building nor do they bite people. Most consider them a temporary nuisance pest only and find that vacuuming or wiping them up with a soft sponge or wet cloth is sufficient. Be aware that they can smear and leave a red stain if crushed.

Tim Gibb, Turfgrass Entomologist

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Skunks and Raccoons causing Havoc?

We continue to receive reports of spring-time turfgrass damage caused by raccoons or skunks. These animals are not feeding on the grass but rather are foraging for below ground, high populations of white grubs. As the vertebrates forage, they turn over great clumps of turfgrass resulting in an area that resembles a war zone.

Sometimes high populations of grubs can be reduced by using insecticides during the spring-time. Such insecticides should not be applied to control grub damage but may be warranted if severe secondary damage occurs as a result of skunk or raccoon activity. Suitable insecticides include compounds with good contact/oral activity such as trichlorfon (Dylox) and carbaryl (Sevin). Remember, however, that if the vertebrates are hungry enough, they will forage for dead grubs as well as live. It may take several days or even a week for the dead grubs to decompose enough to reduce their attraction to vertebrates. During this period of time, the turfgrass may continue to suffer nightly decimation. Direct control of the vertebrates is usually the preferred management tactic.

Raccoon and Skunk Management:

Raccoons are protected furbearers in most states, with seasons established for running, hunting, or trapping them. Most states, however, have provisions to control furbearers that are damaging property. Striped skunks are not usually protected, but the spotted skunk is fully protected in some states. Because legal status and licensing requirements vary, it is best to check with state wildlife officials before implementing any control procedures.

A number of techniques have been used in attempts to frighten away raccoons and skunks from various areas, but none are effective for more than a day or so. These techniques include the use of lights, radios, dogs, scarecrows, plastic or cloth streamers, aluminum pie pans, tin can lids, plastic windmills, etc.
A variety of materials have been used in attempts to repel these pests, again with a lack of proven effectiveness. These materials include blood meal, dog feces, mothballs and dirty laundry. There are no poisons or toxic gases available for raccoon and skunk control.

Live Trapping:
For most turf professionals and homeowners, live trapping and removal of the offending animal is the most practical approach to preventing the damage.

Raccoons are relatively easy to catch in traps, but it takes a sturdy trap to hold one. Traps should be at least 10 x 12 x 32 inches (25.4 x 30.48 x 81.28 cm) and constructed with heavy materials. Commercial models readily available for raccoons include the Havahart ™ Professional Raccoon Trap No. 1079; Nos. 3, and 3A; or Tomahawk™ Nos. 108, 108.5.

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Some raccoons readily enter live traps upon first encounter while others remain wary of the traps for several days. Therefore, pre-bait the traps by placing baits in and around the traps and twist-tie the trap door open for 2 -3 days. This will allow the raccoon to feed freely and become accustomed to the " strange metal object that provides free food" and increase the success of capturing wary individuals. Disguising the exterior of the trap with wood or branches, bushes, or other natural items may entice the raccoon to interact with the trap.
Effective baits include sweet corn, sardines and other fish, cat food, melons, fried bacon, and cooked fatty meat. Tiny amounts of baits should be placed in a trail leading into the trap, with the major portion of the bait placed at the back end or closed end of the trap. When baiting for raccoons where pets are active outdoors, use jelly and honey as these baits are generally not attractive to cats and dogs, but work well for raccoons. Raccoons are also attracted to shiny objects. Adding a wadded up piece of aluminum foil in the trap may help to stimulate their curiosity and attraction.
Raccoons have agile, elongated "fingers" which allow them to pry open lids of garbage cans as well as steal baits through the sides of some traps. To prevent this, place logs, stones, or similar objects around the sides of the trap to create a barrier between the bait and the raccoon (the Havahart Pro™ Raccoon model is specifically designed to prevent bait theft). Sometimes, raccoons will tip over cage traps and shake out the bait, so traps should be staked down to the ground or attached to some nearby object with wire.
Place traps in areas of greatest activity. When raccoons are visiting sod lawns from wooded areas, they tend to follow well establish trails that offer protection, such as fence lines, building perimeters, and trails beneath available shrubbery. Try to identify such areas and locate the traps along these trails.

Skunks can be live-trapped using the same methods and trap sizes as described above for raccoons.
Fish (canned or fresh), fish-flavored cat food, chicken parts, bacon, or peanut butter on bread are effective baits. The trap should be set in the areas receiving damage. When placing traps in open areas such as on fairways, leave both doors open to allow the trap to accommodate an animal approaching from either direction.
If skunks are kept in a darkened trap they will remain relatively calm, and be less likely to spray (release their scent). Therefore, cover traps prior to placement with an old blanket or piece of thick burlap. Handle trapped skunks carefully and avoid sudden, jarring movement or loud noises that may frighten the skunk. Striped skunks seldom spray when these precautions are taken, but the spotted skunk is less predictable.
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Vertebrate pest management professionals should be contacted as to the proper procedures of handling trapped skunks. Some state wildlife agencies advise against relocating skunks as they may present a problem for others, or they may pose a health hazard -skunks are one of the major carriers of rabies. In many locales, trapped skunks can be brought to the local animal shelter for proper handling or possible disposal procedures.

Tim Gibb, Turfgrass Entomologist

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Cooler Than Average Spring Temperatures for Some May Extend the Window for Preemergence Herbicide Applications

Preemergence herbicides prevent emergence of crabgrass plants. These products must be applied prior to crabgrass germination which on an average year could occur as early as April 1 in southern Indiana and three or more weeks later in northern Indiana. It is essential to apply these products early in spring prior to crabgrass germination.

Last year we had a warm spring and crabgrass germinated earlier than normal throughout the state. This year seems much cooler compared to last year. Our average temperatures in West Lafayette are 8 °F cooler than last year. In the past month, our air temperatures have averaged 1-3 degrees cooler than normal (30-year average) in Northern Indiana and 1-2 degree warmer in Southern Indiana.

There are several different ways to try and anticipate when crabgrass might germinate.

Soil Temperature: Most will try and gather data on soil temperature. The research says that crabgrass begins to germinate when the average daily soil temperatures reach 57 to 64 °F at a one-inch depth although large quantities of crabgrass seedlings will not start germinating until soil temperatures increase to 73 °F or above at a one-inch depth.

Air Temperature Using Growing Degree Days: However, it is often inconvenient to obtain soil temperature data and often easier to track air temperature data. Using a growing degree day (GDD) model based upon air temperatures, research suggests that either 200 GDD need to accumulate with a base of 50 °F ( ) or that 4 consecutive days with an average daily temperature of 64 °F. Currently, the models show that crabgrass still has not germinated throughout the northern-half of Indiana which is consistent with our field observations. This still allows for the application of a preemergence herbicide in these areas if not yet treated. If you live in southern or central Indiana and you still have not treated for crabgrass with a preemergence herbicide, it is still possible to control crabgrass if you choose a product that contains dithiopyr – the only preemergence crabgrass herbicide that also has some early postemergence activity.

Plant Phenological Indicators: The flowering of other landscape plants can also be used as a good estimate of when crabgrass might be germinating. Many are aware that forsythia is traditionally considered a good plant to indicate that crabgrass will soon start germinating. Forsythia will typically be in full bloom prior to crabgrass germination and flowers will wither near crabgrass germination. Other plants common in the landscape that bloom before crabgrass germinates include saucer and star magnolia, and Bradford Callery pear. The initiation of redbud blooms are also a good indication of when crabgrass may germinate. However, having said all this, researchers have also documented that ornamental plant flowering is not always a consistent predictor of crabgrass germination, especially with forsythia.

Aaron Patton, Assistant Professor/Turfgrass Extension Specialist

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Spring Beauty and Star-of-Bethlehem


Both spring beauty (Claytonia virginica) and star-of-bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum) are spring flowering weeds that are similar in appearance and sometimes problematic in lawns. Below is a comparison of the two species including control recommendations for both turf professionals and homeowners.
Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica)
Star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum)
Description: Small perennial plant originating from corms. Leaves are oppositely arranged, fleshy with flowers at the tops of erect stems. Flowers are pinkish or whitish or may appear with white, pink stripes. Flowers have five petals and are sweetly scented with a typical bloom time in April and early May in Indiana. Typically occurs in woody, shady locations, although can be found in full-sun. Description: Small perennial plant originating from bulbs. Leaves are narrow, smooth, and have a noticeable pale green stripe on the underside of the flower. Flowers are white with six petals. Flowers typically bloom time in late April or May in Indiana. Plants (including flowers and bulbs) contain cardiotoxins (poisonous) and should not be eaten by humans or animals. Grows in full sun and shade. Can be mistaken as wild garlic or wild onion when not flowering.
Control: This weed is seldom severe enough to warrant control. In fact, most homeowners enjoy having this ornamental plant in their landscape. The plants only flower for a few weeks. If you would like to control this species, encourage turf density through proper turf maintenance. Apply broadleaf herbicides, especially ester formulations, such as 2,4-D, mecoprop (MCPP), MCPA, dicamba, or triclopyr (Turfon Ester Ultra, professional; “Poison Ivy & tough Brush Killer”, “Bayer Advanced Brush Killer Plus”, “Ortho Weed B Gone Chickweed, or Clover & Oxalis Killer for Lawns”, homeowner) or combination products containing these ingredients for control if this weed is problematic. Check the herbicide label for specific application rates and turfgrass tolerance before use. Control: Many homeowners enjoy having this ornamental plant in their landscape although it can become weedy and problematic in landscape beds and lawns. The plants only flower for a few weeks and are not easily visible in cool-season lawns until they flower in the spring. Encourage turf density through proper turf maintenance. Digging bulbs is an effective means of mechanical control. Herbicide control can be obtained with some herbicides. For professionals, products containing sulfentrazone such as Dismiss, Echelon (sulfentrazone + prodiamine), Solitare (sulfentrazone + quinclorac), Q-4 (sulfentrazone, quinclorac, 2,4-D, dicamba) and Surge (sulfentrazone, 2,4-D, MCPP, dicamba); and products containing carfentrazone such as Quicksilver, Speedzone (carfentrazone, 2,4-D, MCPP, dicamba) will provide good control. For homeowners, products containing sulfentrazone such as “Ortho Nutsedge Killer for Lawns”, “Image Kills Crabgrass” (sulfentrazone + quinclorac), “Spectracide Weed Stop for lawns” (sulfentrazone, 2,4-D, MCPP, dicamba); and products containing carfentrazone such as “Fertilome Weed Free Zone” (carfentrazone, 2,4-D, MCPP, dicamba) or “Bonide Weed Beater Ultra” (carfentrazone, 2,4-D, MCPA, dicamba) will provide some control. Check the herbicide label for specific application rates and turfgrass tolerance before use.
Distinguishing characteristics: 1) Flowers with five white petals, and 2) corm as overwintering structure. Distinguishing characteristics: 1) Flowers with six white petals, 2) bulb as overwintering structure, and 3) leaves are narrow, smooth, and have a noticeable pale green stripe on the underside of the flower.

Aaron Patton, Assistant Professor/Turfgrass Extension Specialist

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To whom does this seedhead belong?

Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) is beginning to produce seedheads this time of year which are difficult to mow and can cause a lawn to appear uneven. However, there are other grasses such as annual bluegrass (Poa annua) that also produce similar looking seedheads. Annual bluegrass is a winter annual or weak perennial turfgrass species which invades highly managed lawns and often dies during summer heat and drought leaving behind a lack-luster lawn. Annual bluegrass usually has a lighter lime-green color than Kentucky bluegrass, but for a positive identification you need to take a closer look at the ligule. The ligule is an appendage at the base of the leaf blade that is long and membranous (it looks like scotch tape) on annual bluegrass, but is short or absent on Kentucky bluegrass. If you do suspect that annual bluegrass has invaded your lawn, then see the linked publication below for more information on identifying and controlling annual bluegrass.

Aaron Patton, Assistant Professor/Turfgrass Extension Specialist

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Spilled Fertilizer: Loading and Application

Fertilizer loading
Fill spreaders over a hard surface such as a driveway, sidewalk, or other hard concrete or asphalt surface. This will allow easy clean-up if any material is spilled. Fertilizer spills over turf usually result in turf death to the affected spot. If product is spilled during loading (A), clean-up the material immediately by sweeping or vacuuming or using a shovel for large spills. Collected (swept) material (fertilizer) may be applied to turf areas.

Granular application
It is important to clean-up after applying fertilizers, whether the product contains pesticides or not. Fertilizers spills are easily spotted in the spring because many combination products (i.e. fertilizers + preemergence herbicides) are bright yellow colors (images B-D) and many slow-release fertilizers are also brightly colored. First, sweep or blow any fertilizer off driveways, sidewalks, and streets back into lawns. This will help protect local bodies of water since these surfaces are impervious and fertilizer left on an impervious surface after an application will likely end up in local bodies of water after rainfall events. When fertilizer is correctly applied to lawns, there is little risk of runoff. Turf affects the overland flow process of water to such a degree that runoff from lawns is insignificant and infrequent. Nutrient and pesticide concentrations in runoff from turf are low because most chemicals applied to turfgrass are trapped within the plant and thatch or broken down by soil microorganisms and do not contaminate water supplies. Wash your spreader off over your lawn after you have emptied the spreader and swept any fertilizer from impervious surfaces back onto the lawn. Most lawn care companies are very good at cleaning-up after an application, but it is important to make sure that homeowners are also practicing the same practices in order to protect the environment.

Aaron Patton, Assistant Professor/Turfgrass Extension Specialist

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What’s that brown spot: Nimblewill in lawns

Nimblewill (Muhlenbergia schreberi) is a weed that thin patches in lawns. Since nimblewill is a warm-season grass, it will turn brown at the first frost and is very slow to green-up in the spring. The brown patches seen in lawns in the early spring may be nimblewill contamination. This weed spreads from seeds produced and stolons.

Control of spreading grasses is usually attempted with a nonselective systemic herbicide like glyphosate. Best results are seen when the weedy plants are young, fully green, actively growing, and not under drought stress. The mother plants are easily killed, but often the weed will regrow from the stolons. To overcome this, more than one application is recommended. One must allow the weed to regrow before the next application. At least two applications are recommended, but three or more may be needed. One must realize that the area will be dead and unsightly for a number of weeks or months if optimum control is desired. Controlling warm-season grasses should be initiated shortly after green-up in the summer, whereas control of cool season plants can be started in spring, summer, or early fall.
If there is only a small number of weeds, spot applications can be made. Reseeding can take place five to seven days following final herbicide application. This method can be effective, but undetected weeds may continue to spread across the area. Once the area has been infested with a large number of weeds, killing the entire area will be most effective with multiple applications of glyphosate. Renovation can begin five to seven days following final glyphosate application. Refer to AY-13, “Lawn Improvement Programs” for information on reestablishment.

There is some encouraging research on selective control of nimblewill. Mesotrione (trade name Tenacity) selectively controls nimblewill growing in a cool-season turf. Mesotrione is available to professional turf managers but not available to homeowners; however, professionals can be hired to apply this chemical. Tenacity received registration for use on lawns (as of April 2, 2011) and it can also be used on other turf sites.

Control of perennial grassy weeds is a very difficult and time-consuming process. One must weigh the advantages and disadvantages before deciding whether to attempt control. Many homeowners may be better off just tolerating perennial grassy weeds in their lawns.

Nimblewill patches in a lawn. The turf appears to be dead, but this is just dormant patches of nimblewill
A closer up view of these patches of nimblewill.
A view of the base of this dormant plant shows that there is new growth already initiated for this spring despite the fact that it still looks completely dormant.
Nimblewill will commonly produce a seedhead. The seeds on the seedhead will have a small hair-like extension called an awn. This is helpful for positive identification of this weed.
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