Daddy longlegs or crane flies are starting to hatch out now – you may have seen their dangly-legged dancing as they get into your house, clatter against the windows and the lights – maybe not your favourite. But it is their young, known as leatherjackets ,which really cause grief in gardens. If your lawn has yellowing patches on it or you’ve noticed it being ripped up in the last few weeks, chances are leatherjackets are to blame and it is likely that the problem will get a lot worse too.
So how come? Well, leatherjackets feed on the roots of grass (and may also cause problems in flowerbeds and veg plots) but worst of all, they are an extremely tasty snack if you happen to be an animal such as a crow, rook, magpie, badger or a fox. So as soon as there are leatherjackets in your garden, these animals come along in search of them, ripping up your lawn or excavating beds and borders in the process. Lawns are usually worst affected and can be devastated in days.
Checking for leatherjackets
What is the best way to check if you have them? Early in the evening water a couple of the yellowed patches really thoroughly and do the same with a patch which has been ripped up. Next cover these areas in black polythene weighed down with a couple of bricks or similar. A double layer of back bin liners will do fine or, better still, use an opened-out plastic compost bag. Next morning lift the polythene and you’ll see these pests on the soil or lawn surface.
So how do you know leatherjackets are to blame? Leatherjackets are even less-good looking than their parents: greyish-brown, tubular, legless and up to about 4.5cm long and so nearly transparent that you can often see inside them, lunch and all!
You can often remove a good number by doing this black polythene trick repeatedly, each time just collecting up the pests and putting them on the bird table where they’ll be a useful source of free bird food.
If you want a much quicker, easier and more thorough solution then I suggest you use the biological control nematode Nemasys Natural Leatherjacket Killer. Basically it’s brilliant as it works really well and poses no threat whatsoever to wildlife, pets or humans. It is quick and easy to apply – I just use a watering can and water it onto the affected area shortly after I’ve seen the first daddy-longlegs, and when soil conditions are right, so usually late August to late October. Then as long as you keep the area moist for about two weeks, it works a treat and is even safe if you have a dog, pet rabbit of other pets (or kids) who use the lawn.
So how can you get hold of this ? There are two pack sizes available, suitable for standard lawns or those with a very large area to cover and you’ll not find them in garden centres as they don’t last well on a shelf. But, you can find out more and order them from www.pippagreenwood.com/products in the Protect Your Plants section. We’ll then send them out speedily, first class post in an insulated envelope ready for you to use to quickly and easily sort out those pesky leatherjackets and tell them who’s boss!