That Fresh Sod May Be Full of Eggs
Before you buy sod, you need to know, during May – June, sod webworm eggs may be in the sod, and once the sod webworms hatch, can destroy a lawn before it is established. It is not every batch of sod, but it happens often enough to merit this warning.
How it Happens
As temperatures rise in the spring and summer, the little white lawn moths appear. They flit about the sod field laying eggs, I have seen fields so thick with lawn moths, it looked like a snowstorm. This lawn moth snowstorm is laying millions of eggs per night – night after night. The eggs are tiny – less than a millimeter in size. Depending on the temperature, the eggs hatch in 5 – 10 days.
All is well with the sod – it looks fine – until the sod webworms hatch. A sod farmer can unknowingly harvest sod full of sod webworm eggs. The eggs are so small that they are not easily detected, and sod shipped from the sod farm can contain 1000’s of eggs per thousand square feet.
The warm moist conditions of sod on a pallet are the perfect incubator for bugs. The installer is unaware of the hidden killers in the sod and installs the egg-infested sod. Soon after installation the eggs hatch and the worms eat your newly sodded lawn to the ground.
The Problem with Insect Eggs
We do not have an effective control for the eggs of sod webworms. We can control the insects, but not the eggs. Once the eggs hatch, the worms feed on the grass leaves. The sod depends on the leaves to provide energy for growth. The worms will defoliate the sod. Without the leaves, the sod will die.
Once established, the sod webworms are no longer a lethal threat.
Is Spraying Fresh Sod a Good Idea?
Yes and No! Here is the problem. Fresh sod is highly perishable – it is on the brink of death from being ripped from the field, stacked on a pallet, and shipped. Fresh sod should be babied – not sprayed - until it is established. However, the risk from sod webworms is great and merits spraying newly installed sod as soon as possible.
Since we cannot see the eggs or treat eggs, the best insurance is good insecticide. The other problem is timing – it is possible to spray for webworms on day 2 after installation and they hatch out a week later and still damage the newly installed sod. If you wait a week to treat, they could hatch before the treatment and destroy the lawn.
I have found the best action plan is to treat the lawn within 3 – 4 days after installation. Then for the next 2 -3 weeks, monitor the sod for sod webworm damage. If damage is observed, the sod must be retreated within 24 hours.
In rare cases, I have seen the feeding so intense that even after treatments the sod webworms will destroy the lawn. It is my opinion, that so many sod webworms hatch, eat and die they still destroy the lawn. In this case, it is time to ask the installer for relief – either a new lawn or your money back.
What APL Pest Control can Do
Currently, APL Pest Control is spraying newly planted lawns and training the homeowner to monitor for sod webworm damage. However, we cannot be responsible for the failure of newly planted sod. There are too many variables. What we do guarantee is we will spray the lawn with a good insecticide at label rates for sod webworms.
I suggest you hold the installer/sod company responsible for damage caused by sod webworms for the first 14 days after installation. Tell the installer that you will take ownership when the lawn is rooted in (established). Hold back 10% to 20% of the final payment until it is fully established – about 3 weeks. If the failure is caused by sod webworms, have the installer replace the damaged sod.