Mole crickets for everyone!

Dear DownEast Gardener;

Last summer our crape myrtle's leave developed what appeared to be a fungus.

It looked like a dusting then turned black on the leaves and trunk. It did not flower this fall. I have pruned it for the winter. The black remains on the part of the branches that will (hopefully) sprout again next spring. Do I need to get the black stuff (fungus?) off the trunk and branches? If so what do I used to do so? Could you refer me to a web site on the care of these beautiful trees? J.V.


Answer: You have a scale or aphid type insect on your plants. These insects exude a sweet liquid that falls on leaves and stems. The sooty mold fungus thrives on the sweet juice. The obvious solution is to treat the insects. Consider treating your crape myrtles with dormant oil before warm weather arrives (the ideal time is December and February)...and that you take care of the insects next summer. See the publications link below for more information:  


Dear DownEast Gardener;

I believe my yard is being eaten by mole crickets, I found little bumps of dirt raised on the lawn, and the grass is not looking very healthy, what natural remedies do you suggest? What could I do to get a nice lawn like before? Please help! F.H.


Answer: First, determine what is really eating your lawn up. Use 1-2 teaspoons of dish detergent in one gallon of water. On a warm day (65-80F) in the area of the “bumps of dirt”, slowly pour soapy water over about a 1-2 square foot area of soil. Totally saturate with the solution in the soil were insect activity was observed. Mole crickets will generally emerge in 10-15 minutes, worms, insects and other critters will also emerge. The soapy water acts as an irritant to insects and drives them from the soil. Once the problem is positively identified, corrective action can be taken. Many natural remedies are available for lawn insect control. Read the following publications for such remedies as insect parasitic nematodes, pathogenic insect bacteria, and diatomaceous earth. The NC State University on organic lawncare is especially useful: and


Dear DownEast Gardener;

     I live off Airlie Road in a very wet area.  Our yard is very wet and "mushy" due to mole crickets.  What can be done for these and when is the best time.  I have heard July when they "come out" is the "only" time to treat for mole crickets.  Is this so? We may not last until then as it seems the whole yard is so porous-from their holes I guess. The wetness of our yard makes it even worse. Thanks for any help you can provide me.

L. M.


Answer: The best time to treat mole crickets is indeed June and July. If your soils are wet and mushy, you have other problems than mole crickets. Consider checking the drainage by digging a hole 18 to 36 inches deep. If the hole fills up with water and the water remains in the hole longer than 24 hours, you have a drainage problem that should be corrected with subsurface tile or a graded grass swale. Wet, high organic soils also can host large populations of Green June beetle grubs and/or earthworms. Grubs and earthworms excrete small fecal pellets that are sometimes mistaken for mole crickets. Dig around in your soil and check for grubs. Use soap flushes and check for mole crickets. Read more about controlling and diagnosing mole cricket problems in the following publication ( ).


            For the curriculum program and or gardening questions, write Dr. Bruce Williams, Brunswick Community College, PO Box 30, Supply, NC 29462 or email