How to kill leatherjackets

Written by heather vecchioni
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How to kill leatherjackets
Leatherjackets eat grass roots, causing the spears to die and turn brown. (lawn image by Allyson Ricketts from

Leatherjackets can quickly become a nuisance and destroy your once lush lawn. Leatherjackets are the larvae grubs of the crane fly or daddy long-leg fly. These insects eat the roots of grass, which can turn a green yard into a brown, dead mess. The first signs of a leatherjacket infestation typically occur as small brown patches in the yard during the spring and summer. Birds, such as Starlings, may also frequently appear in the yard if it is infested, as the leatherjacket serves as a food source for them. Fortunately, there are a few ways to eliminate leatherjackets from your yard.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Nematodes
  • Pesticide
  • Large, black plastic sheet
  • Liquid dish soap

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  1. 1

    Place a biological control agent in your yard. Microscopic nematodes can be purchased at many garden stores and applied to your yard to eliminate the leatherjackets. These tiny creatures will seek out the grubs, get inside their bodies and destroy them from the inside out. Leatherjacket control works best in autumn, as this is time when the grubs are first hatched. If you wait to take care of the situation later in the year, the grubs will have already hatched into flies.

  2. 2

    Apply a pesticide to your grass. Some lawn grub killers will destroy leatherjackets, along with other kinds of grubs, as well. Follow the directions on the package label for administration instructions. Apply the killer to the lawn in autumn. Grub killer is usually available at garden centres.

  3. 3

    Place a black plastic sheet over the yard at night. Be sure to do this when the yard is damp. During the night, the leatherjackets will surface from the ground and become stuck to the sheet. In the morning, slowly peel back the sheet and collect the surfaced leatherjackets. If you peel the sheet back too fast, the leatherjackets will fall back in the lawn.

  4. 4

    Apply liquid dish soap to the ground, if the leatherjackets are only affecting small areas of your yard. The soap will suffocate the leatherjackets, causing them to emerge from the ground. Collect the leatherjackets from the surface and dispose of them.

Tips and warnings

  • Nematodes are perhaps the safest way to eliminate leatherjackets. They do not harm the environment, people or animals, as many pesticides can.

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