Dead spots caused by turf mites

Author: Stefan Palm   Date Posted: 14 November 2018 

Rarely a day goes by where we don't see a lawn infested by turf mites. If you could describe your lawn as "failing to thrive" and patchy even though you are doing everything possible to green it up, then mites could be the problem.

Turf mites literally suck the life out of your lawn leaving it lifeless and patchy. The good news is that once identified and treated, lawns rebound very quickly. 

I have seen mite infestations more this year than any other. Experts say that this is due to the drought conditions we have experienced over the past few years. Turf Mites are microscopic organisms that come from the arachnid class (the same class as spiders and scorpions). They breed quickly, have a short life span and occur in their millions. Mite damage is most common in couch and kikuyu lawns and can have a number of effects on your lawn.

The first noticeable damage often happens in spring when the lawn fails to begin its normal growth in spite of plenty of water and fertiliser. The mites sit at the base of the blades of the grass where they attach to the runner (called the stolon) and suck the life from the grass. This results in the lawn failing to thrive. The turf noticeably loses its colour in patches and takes on what’s called a “witches broom” effect (see the photo below where you can see the yellow stunted shoots of lawn that resemble witches brooms). For those who are technically minded, “mites cause a shortening of the internodes and the apparent stimulation of abnormally excessive plant growth. The mites remain hidden under the leaf sheaths and vary in number from a few to a hundred or more under a single sheath. With heavy infestations the grass will turn brown and die.” Eventually the grass, in infested lawns, thins out leaving the lawn susceptible to weed and diseases attack.

Conditions that favour mites are dry warm weather during spring & summer. Turf under stress from irrigation, fertility and heat will recover slower from damage.

So…. “How do I control Turf Mites” I hear you say. One of the best ways is to create an environment that they don’t like. This includes:

  • Making sure your grass is adequately fertilised (ideally 3 times per year)
  • Making sure your grass is adequately watered
  • Making sure you don’t leave clippings on your lawn where mites are a problem

If you are doing all this and still manage to get an outbreak, then chemical control is your only option. Off the shelf chemicals that contain pyrethroids or diazinon are not particularly good at controlling turf mites. The best control method is with products containing an active ingredient called abermectin such as Thumper. 

If you think you have a turf mite problem or any other problem resulting in your lawn dying, then cut out a core sample and take it down to your lawn specialist for correct identification.

Comments (3)


By: on 1 February 2019
Hi Stefan, I think I have the same problem. Large sections of my Santa Ana lawn have withered and died despite regular watering and fertilising. The die-back is nearly always preceded by the healthy grass turning a grey-green colour then I t becomes dry grass. I have seen a few African lawn beetles (black beetles) but I have read that they are blamed for more damage than they actually cause. I have regularly sprayed for beetles but the problem recurs every summer. The lawn itself is in an area exposed to sun without any shade to speak of. In contrast, I have a Santa Ana lawn in another area that has part shade and is thriving with no signs of disease.

Paul Munns Instant Lawn Response
Hi Tony, Mites will always be evidenced by the presence of the witches brooming effect that I explain in the blog. If you can see them, then it's mites. If you can't see them, the issue is not mites. If you're seeing this problem reoccur every summer, and you've noticed a blue/greying effect followed by dry patches, then the issue is probably non wetting soil. Next time you notice this happening, grab a hand trowel and dig a small hole in the centre of one of the effected patches. I suspect that you'll find that the soil is dry even though you are watering the lawn regularly. If it is, then you may be experiencing a problem called dry patch. This is where random areas of the soil under the lawn become non wetting and repel water. Because the soil repels the water you apply, the lawn is not able to access it. In this way, extra watering wont solve the problem. Have a look this blog: for how to deal with non wetting soils.

turf Mites

By: on 18 November 2018
My lawns look similar to the picture above Do you stock / sell the chemicals to control turf mites/couch mites

Paul Munns Instant Lawn Response
Hey Phil, Yes we do stock Thumper. Regards, Stefan


By: on 16 November 2018
This describes the condition of my lawn perfectly. However, I have been unable to find a store that has even heard of Thumper, let alone stocks it. Can you please tell me where it is available? I live in the northern suburbs of Adelaide.

Paul Munns Instant Lawn Response
Hi Frances, We stock Thumper - You can come in at get it from our store at Hove or buy it from our Web Store and get free delivery. Regards, Stefan

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