Billbug

Facts, Identification, & Control

Scientific Name

Sphenophorus spp.

Appearance

What Do They Look Like?

Billbug picture

Billbug image licensed under CC

  • Size: Adult billbugs are beetles in the weevil family. Depending on the particular species, they are about 1/2 to 1 inch long.
  • Characteristics: Has a snout that some compare to a miniature version of an elephant’s trunk.
  • Color: Gray to brown in color. The insect’s larval stage is grub-like in appearance, white, and with no legs.

How Did I Get Billbugs?

The billbug is a common turf pest in most regions of North America. These resilient weevils thrive in a variety of climates. During warm summer months, adults travel over driveways and sidewalks to infest new yards.

The insects may gather on home siding, but they rarely come into the house. Billbugs around windows or doors sometimes wander inside, but they can’t survive long away from lawns and gardens.

How Serious Are Billbugs?

While they can be serious pests of corn and grasses important to agriculture, they are harmless to pets and people. The most likely problem encountered by the homeowner is damage to garden crops and lawn grasses. However, a large infestation may bring other pests to the yard. Birds, predatory wasps, and skunks often feed on billbugs.

Signs of Infestation

One of the most likely visible signs of billbug damage is dead spots in the grass that do not “green up” after watering. It is very important to have a pest management professional (PMP) inspect patches of dead grass to determine what is causing the damage since it can be drought, a grass disease, or insects. To inspect for damage, pull up the dead grass; if it easily comes out of the ground it could be billbug larvae damage to the roots.

Unless a professional inspection is done, homeowners may notice these pests moving across driveways, patios, and sidewalks as the first sign of infestation. If you see this, call your PMP and get their help to identify the insect.

How Do I Get Rid of Billbugs?

What You Can Do
The homeowner should always consult with their PMP for help with identification and pest management. These professionals can identify the pests that are causing lawn problems, plus provide insight on effective control techniques. Some important techniques for controlling billbugs include:

  • Using turf grass varieties which are resistant to billbugs.
  • Using biological control products such as billbug parasitic nematodes and fungal diseases.
  • Using conventional insecticide control applications during the time of year when they are most effective against the adult and larval billbugs.
  • Using lawn care and mowing methods that minimize the amount of thatch and enhance lawn health. Thatch buildup reduces the movement of water and soil minerals to the plant, plus creates a good habitat for billbug adults to thrive.

What Orkin Does
Your local Orkin technician is trained to help manage billbugs and similar pests. Since every building or home is different, your Orkin technician will design a unique program for your situation.

Orkin can provide the right solution to keep billbugs in their place…out of your home, or business.


Behavior, Diet, & Habits

What Do They Eat?
Billbugs feed on grasses and garden crops. Damage occurs when adults cut into the stem to lay eggs and feed on the plant juices. Larvae eat the plant’s stems and roots that are below ground. Grasses that commonly commonly consumed include:

  • Fescue Varieties
  • Kentucky Bluegrass
  • Perennial Ryegrass

Reproduction
In most cases, billbugs spawn one generation a year, but reproductive capabilities can vary depending on species and location. Adults usually overwinter in leaf litter and lawn thatch prior to laying eggs in a chamber they cut in the grass stems. Billbug grubs hatch about one to three weeks later and begin feeding inside the plant’s stem.