Unsightly Mounds in the Lawn

Home Grown  by Keith Reed
Clients calling the Payne County Extension Office the last few weeks are concerned about small mounds of soil appearing in their lawn. The typical report is multiple mounds two to four inches in diameter, sometimes with a hole in the center but sometimes without.

There are a couple of insects that can create this type of symptom. One is the cicada killer. This very large wasp (about an inch and a half long), while quite intimidating on first glance, is usually benign and harmless. Even though the female cicada killer can sting people, it generally only does so when provoked. The male of this species is more aggressive but it lacks the capacity to sting.

As the name indicates, cicada killers do kill and feed on cicadas. The mounds are created from the soil removed to create a burrow the insect uses as a home to lay its eggs. The dead cicada is placed in the burrow to provide a food source for the newly hatching wasp larvae.

Under most circumstances, control of these insects is not suggested since they are rarely a problem for humans and cause no disruption to our food supply. If unusual circumstances necessitate control, there are some options. Any “knock down” wasp control product will work. Individual mounds can also be treated with dusts labeled for wasp control. As with any pesticide, read the label and follow directions carefully.

Another insect capturing the attention of area residents is the short tailed mole cricket. Populations are higher than usual this year for this insect. These crickets are generally just a nuisance so control measures are not suggested. If the unsightly mounds are bothersome, simply rake them down or skip a mowing or two and let the grass grow high enough to cover them up.

Based on some of the client feedback I’ve recieved, some folks have a hard time imagining something that can make such a visual impression is not causing damage. If you are unhappy with my advice and decide to research this topic further, it is important to note that this is NOT the southern mole cricket that wreaks havoc on golf courses and other fine turf areas across the south.

For more information on this or any other horticultural topic, you can contact Keith Reed, the Horticulturist in the Payne County Extension office. Keith can be reached via email at
keith.reed@okstate.edu, phone at 405-747-8320, or in person at the Payne County Extension office, located at 315 W. 6th in Stillwater.

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