Can A Lawn Recover From Leatherjackets?

Nick Durante
by Nick Durante
Credit: Shutterstock / Revilo Lessen

The sight of leatherjackets in your yard isn’t just gross, it’s unsettling. They are gross, destructive, and can make your lawn quickly look unhealthy. So, can a lawn recover from leatherjackets?

A lawn can recover from leatherjackets if you remove the dead grass and thatch, add topsoil, and aerate it. However, you must first eliminate the leatherjackets with Acelepryn or nematodes. Reseed your lawn and treat the soil with iron sulfate, so your grass grows thick and healthy. Mow your lawn weekly and check for leatherjackets between spring and fall.

Leatherjacket infestations are sometimes unavoidable, but you can curb the problem if you act fast. Follow along as we explore how to help your lawn recover from leatherjackets.

Why Are There So Many Leatherjackets In My Yard?

If you have many leatherjackets in your yard, it’s likely because of the big local crane fly population. Crane flies lay larvae that people refer to as leatherjackets. They typically spawn the larvae near areas with lots of soil, and it goes on to wreak havoc.

The biggest reason why leatherjackets are so destructive is that they target the roots of the grass in your lawn. Not only does this kill existing grass, but it prevents healthy growth in the future. It’s hard to see leatherjackets most of the time unless you maintain routine lawn maintenance. Luckily, it’s easy to eradicate them and repair your lawn.

How To Fix Leatherjacket Damage On Your Lawn

1. Eliminate The Leatherjackets

Your lawn can’t recover from leatherjackets until you eliminate them. However, it isn’t always easy to get rid of a leatherjacket infestation because you can’t simply use traditional pesticides. The best option is to introduce nematodes to your lawn to kill the leatherjackets for you.

Nematodes are tiny worms that thrive in soil and can easily kill leatherjackets. Not only do they kill pests, but nematodes can also improve the overall health of your lawn. Many plant nurseries sell nematodes specifically to combat pest infestations, and they’re quite cheap.

The alternative is to “sweat them out”, but that’s harder and requires more patience. This method includes overwatering your lawn and then covering the surface to trap the leatherjackets. The excess water will make the leatherjackets emerge, and the covering will give them nowhere to go. That said, nematodes are the best option.

2. Cut Your Grass

Cut your grass once the leatherjackets are gone. Keep in mind that entire sections of grass may be dead entirely. Make sure to only remove 1/3 of the length of the healthy parts of your lawn so the grass is 2” to 2 ½” tall.

However, it helps to manually remove what remains of the dead grass in the areas where the leatherjackets were most active. This makes it easier to treat the soil and reseed it when your lawn is ready.

Put some new topsoil on the barren parts of your lawn before you move on. That way, you’ll know that it features vital nutrients that grass needs to thrive.

3. Aerate Your Lawn

Once you’ve mowed your lawn and removed the dead grass and thatch, it’s time to aerate your lawn. This is important, as you must make sure the soil is healthy enough to quickly grow new grass. Aeration involves putting many tiny holes in your lawn to infuse it with oxygen.

This lets the soil “breathe”, so to speak, and that can help maintain healthy grass growth. Aeration helps lawns process water properly, react to fertilizer, and avoid messy puddling. You can expect to pay $75-$200 for lawn aeration.

It’s a necessary cost if your lawn is recovering from leatherjacket damage. Now, you can move on and reseed your lawn.

4. Plant New Grass Seeds

Your lawn won’t look great again until you reseed it. Many homeowners even overseed their lawns after recovering from leatherjacket damage. That’s a great idea because it helps encourage healthy growth and prevent further pest infestations.

Be patient, as it can take 10-14 days for grass seeds to germinate. However, it can take up to a month, so don’t feel discouraged if it takes longer than you expect. The grass won’t pop up overnight, but it will be worth the wait when you don’t have to stare at patches of dead grass.

How To Prevent Leatherjacket Infestations

While you can’t necessarily stop leatherjackets from inhabiting your lawn, you can make it harder for them. Let’s look at the best ways to stop leatherjackets from taking root in your yard.

Keep Up With Maintenance

Routine lawn maintenance is the best way to protect your lawn from pests, whether they be grubs or leatherjackets. This includes weekly mowing, yearly aeration, and fertilizing your lawn at least once per year.

Never let your grass grow longer than 3” if your lawn is prone to leatherjacket infestations. Crane flies and their larvae are most active between spring and fall, so keep up with lawn maintenance during this time.

Treat Your Lawn With Acelepryn

Acelepryn is one of the few pesticides that effectively prevent leatherjacket infestations. Most pesticides simply don’t work to kill leatherjackets. That said, you should only use Acelepryn once per year, and it’s best done by professionals.

Call a pest control service during early spring to ask about Acelepryn. Professionals only recommend applying Acelepryn during a short period each year. This ensures that the treatment will take and properly protect your lawn from leatherjackets.

Overseed Your Lawn Each Fall

Overseeding your lawn during the fall can help prevent leatherjacket infestations in the spring. The grass should sprout within the month, but it won’t grow dense until the weather heats up. This can also protect against other pests, such as grubs, as well as soil erosion.

However, this won’t be too effective if you have an active leatherjacket problem. You should only overseed your lawn when you know that there aren’t currently leatherjackets in your yard. Otherwise, you will simply provide a new food source for them.

Infuse Your Lawn With Iron Sulfate

Nutrients like iron sulfate can make your lawn healthy enough to protect itself from pest infestations. Available at most plant nurseries, iron sulfate can make your turf grow much stronger. Lawns with weak turf are the most vulnerable to leatherjackets.

It works best when the weather is cool, and the soil is wet. That way, you can ensure the iron sulfate takes to the soil and adequately nourishes it.

Summing It Up

Lawns can recover from leatherjacket damage, but it can take months. You must first eradicate the grass, then mow your lawn and remove the dead grass and thatch. Add new topsoil to your lawn, aerate it, and reseed your yard with fresh grass. Regularly mow your lawn and add nutrients, like iron sulfate, to protect against leatherjackets.

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Nick Durante
Nick Durante

Nick Durante is a professional writer with a primary focus on home improvement. When he is not writing about home improvement or taking on projects around the house, he likes to read and create art. He is always looking towards the newest trends in home improvement.

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