How to Conquer 5 Common Lawn Pests in Colorado


Thanks to unpredictable weather and a dry climate, maintaining a beautiful lawn in Colorado can be a challenge. Regional pests can make this challenge even harder.Thanks to unpredictable weather and a dry climate, maintaining a beautiful lawn in Colorado can be a challenge. Regional pests can make this challenge even harder. 

As a Colorado home owner, you’re probably no stranger to insects that chew on your grass, elk that stomp all over your landscaping, and a whole array of other creatures that dig holes in your lawn.

Colorado is home to several different types of invasive species that can turn your beautiful lawn or garden into an all-you-can-eat buffet or apartment complex for all their friends and family.

But with the right prevention, you can keep these critters from taking over your property.

Here’s how you can protect your lawn from 5 common Colorado pests, and what to do if they’ve already tried to move in.

1. Invasive Insects

There are a number of species of insects in Colorado that love to eat the grass on your lawn. Four of the main culprits are billbugs, white grubs, mites, and chinchbugs.

These insects can damage and eventually kill your grass with their big appetites. You want to be particularly wary of these insects after a sudden heat, as this can cause an upsurge in insect numbers.

If you notice dead patches or spongy areas in your lawn, you may have an invasive insect problem.

These critters like to chomp on the roots of the grass, which kills the plants from underneath the soil. So you might not be able see these insects, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t hurting your lawn

How to Prevent:

The most powerful thing you can do to protect your lawn from insect pests is to make sure it’s healthy and well-watered.

The stronger and fuller your lawn is, the more resistant it is to pest damage. If the plants or grass in your yard are already weak or under-watered, a small insect infestation could make a big dent in your lawn or garden.

How to Treat:

If you discover an insect problem in your lawn, keep working to maintain a healthy lawn to keep the problem to a minimum.

You’ll also want to treat your lawn with insecticides. It’s important to identify the type of insect infestation that’s affecting your lawn, as the treatment varies for each insect type.

Billbugs are best defeated with a pesticide once most of the insects are adults, whereas white grubs and Japanese beetles are best treated when they’re young and living in the upper soil (usually in late July/early August) — adult Billbugs are tolerant of pesticides.

Water your lawn after applying insecticide to help the treatment absorb into the soil rather than remain on the leaves, as many invasive insects like to hide out beneath the soil surface.

Make sure to carefully follow the instructions for the insecticides you choose, as improper use can damage your lawn.

Be extra careful if you have pets or kids that like to romp through your yard. If your pets (or kids) happen to ingest any grass that’s been recently treated with a chemical-based insecticide, it could make them sick (or worse).

Learn how to make sure your lawn is pet and kid-friendly (and how to keep it that way) >

Look for pet-safe treatments, or all-natural/organic alternatives. There are also many natural homemade bug repellants you can make yourself.

2. Burrowers

There are a few species of burrowing mammals like rabbits and woodchucks that are likely to give your lawn trouble in your Colorado.

These animals will eat your plants and burrow tunnels under your lawn, which can make it difficult to maintain healthy grass, as the digging tears up root systems and kills grass.

It also exposes soil, which makes it easy for weeds to take root and steal precious nutrients and water from your lawn.

The holes leading into the tunnels are unsightly and a good way for you to sprain your ankle if you unexpectedly step in one.

How to Prevent:

For woodchucks, rabbits, or really any other burrowing animal, you will want fencing to keep them out. Fencing around your entire lawn should go at least 10 inches underground.

To keep them out of the garden or other areas, a 2-foot-high chicken wire fence that goes 6 to 10 inches deep should do the trick.

If you’ve got rabbits (you’ll either see them running around your yard, find their burrows or notice that your plants are being eaten up), there are all-natural rabbit repellants you can use. You’ll need to reapply these repellants every few days and after heavy rains.

How to Treat:

If the repellant and fencing around plants doesn’t encourage these pests to move on, try traps baited with fresh vegetables.

If you’ve got burrowers under your deck, install a chicken wire fence around the perimeter that goes 12 inches deep (with the lower part of this curving away from the deck area, so they can get out).

This will prevent them from being able to get back under the deck, so they’ll have to find a new home.

3. Deer and Elk

If you live in Colorado, you’re probably no stranger to deer. And depending on where you live, elk probably aren’t an uncommon sight either.

These animals are majestic to look at from a distance, but they aren’t exactly welcome when loitering in your lawn.

Large mammals like deer and elk can crush your plants and lawn and will eat your plants and low-hanging branches of trees.

How to Prevent:

It’s not easy to keep animals of this size off your lawn. The only certain prevention method is fencing around your entire lawn. The fencing needs to be higher than 8 feet, as anything shorter can easily be jumped by deer or elk.

How to Treat:

Besides a fence, there are a few things that should help discourage deer and elk from returning to your lawn:

  • Repellant: Choose from store-bought repellants, human hair (sprinkled throughout lawn and flowerbeds and stuffed in socks around the garden), and urine (have your dog mark the yard weekly, or use a spray bottle to apply yourself).
  • Dog: A dog that is free to roam your yard is a pretty good deterrent, as deer see them as a predator to stay away from. The bigger the dog the better!
  • Light: A motion-activated light can scare deer and elk (and people!) away at night. You can also hang shiny objects like CDs or strips of metal that reflect light during the day to discourage these pests.
  • Loud Noise: Any time you see deer or elk in your lawn, use a whistle to frighten them. This may teach them to stay away
  • Don’t Feed: Feeding animals encourages them, so don’t feed them if you want to keep them away.

4. Skunks/Possums

Skunks and possums are far from welcome creatures in any lawn. Beyond a skunk’s stench and a possum’s less-than-adorable features, these animals can wreak havoc on your lawn.

How to Prevent:

These critters are attracted by dark covered spaces in which to live and garbage to eat.

Seal off any holes underneath the porch or deck. Kill 2 birds with one stone by using chicken wire, which will keep out rabbits as well.

Be sure to install the fence at least a foot deep underneath the ground.

Make it impossible for animals to get into your trash. A heavy brick on top of each can should do the trick, or you can use straps or clamps.

This is also a good idea if you live in an area frequented by raccoons or bears.

How to Treat:

Prevention is really the best treatment with these critters, because they just go where the food is, and the food is your trash.
If you’ve tried everything above and they are still coming around, there are a few other things you could try to send them packing:

  • Spray the side of your trash cans with a 50/50 mix of ammonia and water (be sure to wear gloves). The smell will help keep them from coming back.
  • Make a paste of petroleum jelly and camphor oil and spread it around the base of trees. The smell should ward them off.
  • Sprinkle mothballs around your yard. Mothballs are not pet-safe, so this isn’t a good option if you’ve got outdoor pets. If not, the smell of mothballs should help keep skunks away.
  • A pet-safe alternative to mothballs is Epsom salts. Sprinkle them on and around your garbage cans to keep possums and skunks from returning.

If none of these solutions are helping keep skunks off your property, you may need to trap them and have them removed.

Hire a professional pest control service to handle this, as these animals can carry a lot of diseases.

5. Snakes

Rattlesnakes, garter snakes, bullsnakes and milksnakes…the list of slithery serpents that call Colorado home goes on and on.

Some of these species dig holes and/or burrow in the ground, which is bad news for your lawn.

Some of these snakes can also be poisonous, so in addition to being bad for your lawn, they can also pose a threat to your family and pets.

How to Prevent:

Minimize the chance of snakes moving in by keeping your grass short and sealing off any cracks (no matter how small) in your house’s foundation.

Long grass makes a nice shelter for rodents and insects, which will attract snakes looking for a snack.

Cracks in your home’s foundation make a good home for snakes (and other types of animals) looking for a safe little cranny to hide out in.

Repair them with concrete patches and/or caulk, then apply a waterproof masonry sealer to protect the concrete from water.

You’ll want to remove any existing paint or coatings before applying the sealer to ensure the best possible results.

How to Treat:

Prevention is the best cure, especially with snakes, as they can be poisonous.

The tips above will make your property unattractive to snakes, so they should move on to somewhere else.

If they don’t, it’s best to call an exterminator to deal with them rather than risk injury.

In Colorado, you’re likely to deal with at least one lawn pest or two every year. But a well-maintained, healthy lawn can take the stress of these pests better than a weak one.

Need a helping hand to keep your lawn growing strong all summer long? Rely on the lawn care professionals at GSC to give your lawn a fighting chance against Colorado wildlife >