Turf Insect Diagnostics Workshop

Date: 

2016 to 2018

Summary: 

The objective of this project was to develop a modular workshop-style program for teaching turf managers how to diagnose insect pest problems. Participants work with pin, point, and gel-mounted insect specimens and keys (non-taxonomic, included at end of statement) to learn basic identification of adult and immature stages of common turf pests. Participants also learn field diagnosis of common damage symptoms along with treatment thresholds and other decision making criteria.

Issue: 

Proper diagnosis of insect pest problems is critical to integrated pest management in turfgrass. While most turfgrass managers acknowledge this, few turf managers conduct regular pest scouting, and only a handful are able to distinguish among key turf pests. This includes the larval stages of scarab beetles, which are one of the most economically important pests of turf.
This workshop was developed in response to this need. At the beginning of the workshop, participants are polled to assess their current knowledge and effort in turf pest diagnostics. Our polls indicate that although over 85% of participants scout regularly for insects, most are only familiar with a subset of the most important pests.

Response: 

The insect diagnostics workshop was designed to be adaptable to different turf sectors (e.g. golf vs. home lawns). To accomplish this, we have constructed theme boxes for different insect pest groups. Participants work in teams of 3 to identify specimens in each theme box after short periods of instruction which cover key morphological features, basic biology, life history, damage symptoms, field collection methods, and treatment decision making steps for each theme taxon. Participant groups are given hand lenses, diagnostic keys, light sources, and size references (rulers and pennies) for making identifications. In addition, specimens are also displayed under a dissecting microscope for participants that have difficulty finding key morphological features. Before participants move from one theme to another, they answer a series of questions on insect identification or decision making (see examples below under Impact).

Impact: 

Workshop participants improved their understanding of turf insect identification and biology in many cases. For example, although none of the participants recognized Asiatic garden beetle at the start of the workshop, over 90 and 80 percent of the group were able to identify their adults and larvae, respectively, at the conclusion of each theme. Participants also learned to distinguish between exotic pets and native species that are similar in appearance (e.g. European and native crane flies (answer – exotic)). We also identified areas where turf managers need to improve diagnostic skills. For example, many participants had difficulty identifying some white grub species and recalling economic damage thresholds for different turf pests. The workshop also contains a final insect quiz as a formal post-workshop assessment.
To date, we have provided our workshop to over 300 participants in NY, ME, and PA, spanning master gardeners, golf turf managers, school grounds managers, landscapers, and home owners.

Submitted by: 

  • Wickings, Kyle

Researchers involved: 

  • Wickings, Kyle

International focus: 

  • United States of America

United States focus: 

  • Maine
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania