Home Bowls How to Control Crane fly/Daddy Long Legs on Sports Turf

How to Control Crane fly/Daddy Long Legs on Sports Turf

by TurfCareBlog

How to control Crane fly/Daddy long legs on Sports Turf, is becoming an increasing problem.Milder winters and the withdrawal of chemicals to control the problem is only going to get worse.

Last year increased the population also due to a wet September and October, a small moderate population is fine, but left unchecked it will only grow.

Birds digging, animals digging up your pride and joy, then its more than likely like me you have leatherjacket/craneflies larvae just below the turf and the population is out of control.

Signs of leatherjacket larvae within the soil

Patches of yellow, shallow rooted grass or/and patches of dead grass.

Birds creating circular holes within the turf.

Raised level of bird interest and time spent on the turf.

Areas less wear tolerant, due to larvae feeding on roots.

Periods of damage can be all year.

Physical examination, lift up some turf and take a look if you suspect larvae issues, you may see the larvae, as in the above image.

Six Leather jackets bullet points 

There are two types of larvae that mainly effect turf tipula paludosa and tipular oleracea.

Once leatherjacket larvae catches know as crane fly or daddy long legs 

Hatch mostly in late summer.

Have a 10-15 days life cycle, where they mate, lay eggs (300 each) and then die.

Larvae food source organic matter within the soil, dead grass clippings roots living and dead and any thatch layers.

Mostly feed in winter, so try and remove the food source.

What areas of turf are more susceptible?

High organic material and thatch

Turf areas under stress

Poorly maintained areas.

Options/ controls 

Keep organic matter and thatch levels to a minimum, via thatch reduction techniques such as a regular programme of verticutting, scarification and aeration which also helps break down organic matter.

Boxing off clippings where possible, will also help control the food source.

End of season renovation is vital in removing thatch and organic matter, as vital feeding period for larvae.

Nematodes applications during the peak period when the larvae are at their youngest i.e. during September/October. Possible options to re-apply in early spring. Very costly option and often only possible for small areas or large areas with high resources.

 The use of silage sheets, to bring up the larvae to the surface. The aim is to heavily water the areas the night before and then cover the area, then uncovered the next morning when the larvae will be active on the surface for removal (mowed or collected up). I have seen this used on golf course fairways to great success, especially helpful if areas of damage are small.

Rolling of turf, during spring to areas with a history of damage, but not at the expenses over compacting the soil and rootzone.

Possible applications of garlic and silicon or similar products to aid recovery of the plant after attack .

Limited use – Chemical control with the use of acelepryn, under emergency authorisation and only permitted to be used on golf or racecourse during specific windows.

If a thick layer of thatch is present in the top of the profile, removal with a koro type machine is an option.

Which of the above options is dependent largely on avaible resources and the size of the area effected, if only a small area applied there’s a greater deal of options for small clubs?

What’s are Nemotoeds (roundworm)

Nematodes are either plant or host parasites.

The ones we spray into the soil are host parasites

Host nematodes track down and kill the leather jacket larvae.

Nematodes are microscopic worms(roundworm) and they are sprayed onto the turf alive.

Nematodes the plant eating type also cause issues as they eat grass roots, but that’s for another blog and in balance is not an issue.

life cycle of leatherjackets
Life Cycle -Image Courtesy of Syngenta

Timing of operations and control conditions 

Leatherjacket larvae is at its youngest stage during October, this is the window to attack with either nematodes or acelepryn.

Prior to nematode treatment a form of aeration is recommended, to get them into the soil and past the grass surface. High water volumes are also recommended, along with washing the products in or to be done when rain is due.

The time to act is when the larvae are near the top of the surface, and when they are at there youngest

Garlic and silicon is best applied in spring and autumn.

Sheeting/silage sheets – optimum time for doing this is when the larvae are near the surface , they like moist conditions in spring and autumn and sometimes periods between.

Cultural, in-season verticutting and end of season thatch removal.

How to control Crane fly/Daddy long legs on Sports Turf-Conclusion 

Personally, l am going to also try and get some black silage sheeting down and keep moving it around, to areas we cannot afford to treat as blanket spraying is a too expensive an option for both grounds.

I think for the worst areas l am just going to try and increase scarification, aeration to try and take away their food source. Just looking at this as a onetime problem to solve, probably isn’t the answer.

The way forward is an integrated pest control plan (removal of food source) and trying to manager turf stress better as mentioned above is the a better a more sustainable response, it’s a challenge for sure.

What are your own experiences and have l missed out any control measures?

If so please leave a comment below.


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dave harrison October 1, 2020 - 3:30 pm

Good info Brian. I think I’m going to try the silage option as soon as my seed has chitted and grown a bit. Also on one of a square where little/ no renovation has been done. Verticutting seems a way forward throughout winter when conditions allow.

William Wright October 2, 2020 - 9:26 pm

hello , i suppose DPM.. damp proof membrane , will be too thick ? can get my hands on this

TurfCareBlog October 3, 2020 - 7:09 am

If it’s black l would think it would work , just bee a dark atmosphere that keeps in moisture so they think that are in the ground -let’s us know if it works worth a go if readily available

William Wright October 3, 2020 - 7:56 am

will do , what would be the best month to try out ?

TurfCareBlog October 3, 2020 - 8:13 am

October is said to be a good month and then again in March/April when the larvea and near the surface . Probably work now warm and damp .

Eddie Giles October 4, 2020 - 8:45 am

Would you class loads of seagulls a sign of leather jackets?

TurfCareBlog October 4, 2020 - 8:53 am

Not sure tbh .
The sign you may have issues is alot of daddy long legs on the wing and also periods of fox/badger digging.
crows and rooks are a good sign, if they are also creating beak holes within the turf.

Gordon October 4, 2020 - 10:12 am

I doubt it Eddy, I suffer hoards of seagulls all summer long. They do take worms though.

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