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How Can I kill Leather Jackets on My Lawn?

If you have bare grass patches and birds constantly pecking at the grass, you may have leather jackets hiding beneath your lawn. Are you asking, how can I kill leather jackets on my lawn? Keep it here to learn how to go about it. 

What are leatherjackets?

Leatherjackets are crane fly larvae, often known as daddy longlegs. The flies and their larvae are an essential food source for many birds, including starlings, rooks, and golden plovers.

Crane flies, which are completely harmless, are members of the true fly family, including mosquitos.

The cranefly spends the majority of its life as a larva. Most crane fly larvae do not feed on living roots, but those that do can cause considerable harm, particularly to lawns.

The European and marsh crane flies are the most prevalent types of crane flies, and both are considered agricultural pests in some parts of the world due to the harm they may cause to grass and grain crops.

A Leatherjacket is typically 4-5cm long and appears like a worm or a caterpillar.

They are grey/brown, have no legs, and are difficult to distinguish between their head and the bottom end to the untrained eye.

They look to slither like worms as they move. To witness a Leatherjacket in action, watch this video:

These insects live just beneath the soil’s surface; you’re more likely to encounter them if you’re performing grass edging or planting. Leatherjackets can also be found under plant pots and in locations with shallow gravel.

What causes leather jackets?

Leatherjackets result from crane flies that prefer to lay their eggs in grassy environments. Crane flies are more common after a wet autumn because the larvae and pupae love damp environments.

Crane flies are drawn to the light from homes, and short grass on the lawn is ideal for egg-laying. A leatherjacket infestation is frequently due to bad luck; people may have one infestation and then have no further difficulties or multiple infestations.

The quantity of adult crane flies varies, and where they lay their eggs is unpredictable; some even lay eggs while flying.

How do you tell you to have leather jackets on your lawn?

Due to their similar symptoms, Leatherjacket infestations are often confused with Chafer Grub infestations.

This is because both eat on the grass plant’s roots, resulting in dead, dry grass patches that are often loose.

Your lawn may grow areas of dead grass for various reasons, so don’t assume Leatherjackets cause it. Remove a tiny part of turf to be sure, and if it’s full of them, you’ve got a problem.

Birds such as Jays, Magpies, Rooks, and Crows like feeding on Crane Fly Larvae and will rip up the lawn to do so. Foxes, hedgehogs, and badgers will also get involved, digging up your lawn to get at them. So, if you see these on your lawn, you may have a leatherjackets infestation.

If you reside in the countryside, you may notice the appearance of molehills, which feed on the Leatherjackets.

How do you prevent leather jackets?

Because leatherjackets result from crane flies laying eggs on your lawn, and you can’t prevent them from doing it, as they can even do it while flying, you must be wondering whether you can ever get rid of the larvae from your lawn, right?

Well, while it’s impossible to get rid of leather jackets from your lawn completely, there are several measures you can take to prevent them from coming about.

While you can’t stop crane flies from laying eggs, but you can make the lawn unpleasant to the larvae. 

You should try aeration if your lawn has poor drainage (water pools on the surface frequently).

During aeration, you make holes in the soil to allow it to breathe and assist the precipitation movement and dissemination.

What to do if you have leather jackets on your lawn

If you’re unlucky enough to have a leather jacket infestation on your lawn, there are numerous ways that you may combat the problem.

Because of environmental legislation that prohibited all insecticides and pesticides in 2015, no chemical treatments for leather jackets are available.

This is fantastic news for the environment, and there are many other effective strategies to remove these pests from your garden. These ways include:

Ensure you have strong grass.

Strong grass means strong roots; unless you have a severe infestation, a few daddy longlegs larvae will not harm your lawn.

Maintain the health of your lawn by mowing it regularly; once a week should suffice throughout the summer months.

Keep your grass aerated and fed, and it will generate long, strong roots that will endure most leatherjacket-feeding frenzies.

Attract birds

Leatherjackets are a tasty treat for birds, so inviting them to your yard is wise. Crows, starlings, rooks, magpies, and golden plovers are especially fond of a leather jackets.

You can attract birds to your garden by providing sufficient food and water. Mealworms and suet balls are favorites of starlings.

Trap the larvae

A great way to trap leather jackets is to attract them to the soil’s surface. You can accomplish this by soaking a section of the lawn and covering it with a black plastic sheet or large garbage bag.

Anchor it to the ground with hefty stones or tent pegs and leave it for a night or two. Any leather jackets that appear on the grass will be a feast for the birds.

If you have a large lawn, repeat with another piece of your grass until you’ve completed the entire lawn.

Use nematodes

As mentioned above, you can’ use chemicals to kill leather jackets. So, the best way to go about it is to use nematodes.

You can use insect pathogens such as fungi and bacteria, notably Bacillus thuringiensis, to successfully manage leather jackets. Nematodes, pathogenic, worm-like, multicellular insects with smooth bodies, transfer these bacteria and fungi into the soil.

You can buy the nematodes that target and kill leather jackets online or at garden centers. They work by injecting a fungus or bacteria into the larvae, which kills them.

When should you use nematodes on leather jackets?

You must cut your lawn short before applying nematodes for the best outcome. Apply the treatment to the lawn with a watering can after mixing it with water.

Although nematodes may appear frightening, they are a natural therapy safe for humans, pets, wildlife (excluding leather jackets), and lawns.

When the larvae are most active, it is better to administer nematodes from the middle of April to the middle of May or from September to October.

Read the instructions on the packet carefully because the dosage may vary according to the time of year you apply the nematodes.

While there are many nematodes in the market you can go for, one of the best ones to consider is the Nemasys Leatherjacket Killer.

Monterey Nematode Control - Organic Gardening Control of Plant Parasitic Nematodes - 1 Quart - Apply with Sprayer, or as Drench
Monterey Nematode Control - Organic Gardening Control of Plant Parasitic Nematodes - 1 Quart - Apply with Sprayer, or as Drench

Last update on 2024-07-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

To get the best from the nematode killer, you should ensure that:

  • The grubs are active and close to the soil’s surface.
  • The soil is wet, and
  • When temperatures exceed 12°C (54°F), apply a double dose in the spring and autumn.

After treatment, keep the soil wet for at least two weeks. Water the lawn every couple of days if it’s dry.

As mentioned above, scarifying is required BEFORE applying the Nematodes. If you use the Nematodes and then scarify, you will disturb their effectiveness, and the outcomes will be poor.

Use garlic

If you don’t want to use the commercial nematodes and instead make your leatherjacket repellent, garlic is an excellent and effective therapy you can use to your advantage.

Crush several garlic cloves into a basin, add boiling water, and allow overnight, then sieve to eliminate the larger pieces that may clog your sprayer. Combine with water and apply liberally to the grass.

The bitter taste of the garlic will keep the larvae from munching on the grass, and they will wiggle away to find sweeter-tasting grass somewhere else.

Dig your lawn area.

Here you need to dig down and remove the larvae yourself. This will not work for an expansive grass area, but if you have a small lawn, you may successfully remove leather jackets from any afflicted areas with a little trowel.

Because the larvae live around 3 inches below the soil, you shouldn’t have to dig too far to find them. It may take several attempts to remove the larvae, but if leather jackets are causing substantial damage to your lawn, the effort will be worthwhile.

Place the leather jackets you’ve removed on a bird table or tray; they won’t be around long!

What do you do with a damaged lawn?

What you do with the lawn depends on the severity of the infestation; you may select between two options:

  • Repairing the lawn
  • Replacing the entire lawn

Before deciding, compare the costs of lawn renovation against the cost of replacing it. If you have a small patch of grass, replacing it is often more cost-effective (and you have a far better chance of successfully eradicating the problem).

If you have had just minor damage to your lawn, the best solution is to repair the damage. The first thing you should do is to scarify your lawn.

Removing the extra lawn thatch is not only beneficial to the overall health of your lawn, but it also creates the ideal ground for spreading grass seed.

Excess thatch removal also opens up the soil.

Here is a guide on scarifying your lawn that you should follow.

After using a scarifier on your grass, it will look rather rough. There will be spots of bare earth and unkempt grass.

If you leave it like that, you’ll almost certainly replace your Leatherjacket problem with a moss or weed infestation. And you don’t want this, do you?

So, use a high-quality grass seed to oversee the lawn. You can buy various types of grass depending on your grass type and climatic circumstances, such as shade, dampness, and so on.

You’ll want new grass seed to germinate and flourish quickly after you’ve spread it. Applying a high-quality pre-seeding fertilizer will aid in establishing and developing the new grass’s root system.

If there is no rain, water your lawn regularly, and you should see new grass shoots develop within a couple of weeks. Your lawn should be back to its former splendor in a few weeks.

If the leather jackets have destroyed your lawn, the best action is to replace the lawn.

Start by killing the grass using a Glyphosate-containing weedkiller. This will accomplish two things:

It will eliminate all weeds and their seeds from the lawn and soil. Because of this, weeds will be less likely to sprout through your new lawn.

It will also kill the grass, depriving the Leatherjacket of food.

Allow it to work into the roots for a couple of weeks.

Try Roundup’s Fast Action Weedkiller Pump’ n’ Go Spray to avoid combining concentrated solutions.

Ortho GroundClear Super Weed & Grass Killer1, Comfort Wand, Kills the Toughest Weeds and Grasses to the Root so They Don’t Come Back, 1 gal.
Ortho GroundClear Super Weed & Grass Killer1, Comfort Wand, Kills the Toughest Weeds and Grasses to the Root so They Don’t Come Back, 1 gal.

Last update on 2024-07-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

If you don’t mind mixing concentrate and have a backpack sprayer, use a commercial-grade glyphosate weed killer concentrate such as…

Remove the turf once the lawn has died completely. You can do this with a turfing iron, a spade, or a turf cutter if you have a large lawn.

Even if you only have a tiny lawn, digging is hard labor, so you should be properly prepared.

Another alternative is to hire a rotavator, which comes in handy if you have a vast area to dig.

Birds will devour the LeatherJackets if the soil is uncovered for a day or two. Continue turning over the soil daily for a few weeks to expose as many Leatherjackets as possible.

Your local bird population will be grateful!

You can also water in some Nematodes to kill as many leather jackets as possible.

The Leatherjacket population should significantly reduce after a week or two of rotating the soil. So you can now prepare the ground for the installation of fresh lawn.

Here is a guide to follow on how to lay the new turf.

What insecticide kill leather jackets?

For many years, no chemical insecticide was on the market to manage Chafer Grubs and Leather Jackets. But Acelepryn was approved in 2018.

Acelepryn received full professional use approval in 2023 and can now be used on various amenity turf, sports turf, and commercial and residential lawns.

On my 15th birthday, I became the designated gardener in my home.

Now at 32, I have a small garden and every day I'm out trying different plants and seeing how they grow. I grow guavas, peaches, onions, and many others. Want to know more about me? Read it here.

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