In 1978, the Florida Legislature instructed UF/IFAS to conduct a research program on pest mole crickets to tackle the problem caused to Florida ranchers by pest mole crickets. Years of research led in the 1980s to the importation, release, and establishment of three biological control agents (a beneficial wasp, a beneficial fly, and a beneficial nematode) from South America. The fly spread rapidly through central and southern Florida, but could not establish in northern Florida. The wasp and the nematode spread much more slowly, but appear to be capable of existing in all parts of Florida. Pest mole cricket populations declined and, where they have been measured year after year for 25 years, are at about 5% of the numbers in which they used to occur in the 1980s. This is a huge success! No longer do pest mole crickets swarm in the early spring around bright lights at dusk as they used to do in the 1980s – and success is spreading.
If mole crickets in your pasture are still too numerous, here is what you can do to encourage populations of the beneficial nematode and beneficial wasp on your land. You can attract the wasps to your pastures by adding certain nectar-source plants. You can buy and apply the beneficial nematodes. Or, you can do both. But there is no real point in doing either unless your pasture is being badly damaged by mole crickets. So, first we deal with how to detect a mole cricket problem. We are trying to help you control a problem as well as save you money.
Check your pasture to determine whether it is infested with mole crickets. Signs are patches of dead grass, and tunnels visible on the soil surface. After a hard rain when the soil is wet, in an area of 2 × 2 ft where you suspect mole crickets are present, pour a solution of one tablespoon of liquid dishwashing detergent in one gallon of water. If four or more mole crickets come to the surface within 3 minutes, and the same happens at other places in the pasture, you have justification for action. We recommend that you make a 2 × 2 ft square quadrat out of half-inch pvc pipe because that makes it much easier to define a 2 × 2 ft area. But this does not work in the cold winter months when mole crickets are deep underground, and it does not work in June to early August when mole cricket counts may be high because of many small hatchlings.
We are dedicated to putting down pest mole cricket populations everywhere in Florida – not just on your property, but everywhere and permanently. Your Livestock Extension agent is your resource person. See list of Livestock Extension agents.
Further reading: http://ipm.ifas.ufl.edu/pdf/Frank_2006_American_Entomologist.pdf