Ground Pearls in Turfgrass

Ground pearls (Hemiptera: Margarodidae) are scale insects that suck fluids from the roots of bermudagrass, bahiagrass, carpetgrass, St. Augustinegrass, and zoysiagrass, but prefer centipedegrass. They may be associated with acidic soil. Infested grass yellows, browns, and dies, especially in hot, dry weather. Weeds tend to invade infested areas. They occur throughout Florida.

Clusters of pinkish-white eggs, covered in a white waxy sac, are laid in the soil from March to June. Tiny crawlers or nymphs attach to roots and cover themselves with a hard, yellowish to purple, globular shell (Figure 1). These “pearls” range in size from a grain of sand to about 1/16 inch. They may occur as deep as 10 inches in the soil (Figure 2). The adult female is 1/16 inch long, pink in color, with well developed forelegs and claws. Adult males are rare, tiny, gnat-like insects. Females emerge from cysts in the spring, move around a little, then dig several inches into the soil, and secrete a waxy covering around themselves. One generation may last from 1 to 2 years.

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