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How to Manage Pests

The UC Guide to Healthy Lawns

Billbugs, Sphenophorus spp.

Adult billbug

Billbug damage

Pulling up damaged turf

Click on images to enlarge.

Identification

Billbug adults are small weevils, 1/3 inch (0.8 cm) long, with long, downward-pointing snouts and elbowed and clubbed antennae. They are often seen walking on paved areas but are difficult to find in turf. Larvae are creamy white, 3/8-inch-long (0.9-cm-long) grubs with brown heads. The absence of legs distinguishes billbug larvae from other turfgrass pests.

Hosts

All turfgrass species

Damage

Billbugs first feed on the inside of turfgrass stems and crowns, then move to feed on roots. The affected area appears brown, thin, and dead in small, irregular spots. Damage can spread to patches extending many feet in width. Fine, whitish, sawdustlike frass can be observed on the soil surface. Damaged turf breaks at the crown and is easy to pull from the soil, but cannot be rolled up like sod damaged by white grubs.

Monitoring information

Look for billbugs during the spring, summer, and fall. Dig around roots for whitish, C-shaped, legless grubs up to 3/8 inch (0.9 cm) long with reddish heads. Look for piles of frass at the base of turfgrass plants. Inspect outdoor lights around dawn for 1/3 inch (0.8 cm) brownish to gray snout beetles. Look for adults crawling around sidewalks.

Management

Follow recommended irrigation and fertilization rates for your turf species. Mow at the high end of the recommended height for your species. If more than 1 billbug per square foot is found, you may need to treat the area with an insecticide. Beneficial nematodes are effective against grubs.

Life cycle

For more information on lawn insects, refer to:
Pest Notes: Lawn Insects


Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
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