Ground Pearls are tiny lawn-destroying insects that suck fluids from the roots of Bermudagrass, Centipedegrass, St. Augustinegrass and Zoysiagrass. Also known as Margarodes spp., these lawn pests can be found in grass and landscaping throughout many southern states from the East to West Coast.
Adult female Ground Pearls have soft, pink, pear-shaped bodies whereas males are tiny, pinkish-white, gnat-like insects. While only female Ground Pearls are considered lawn-destroying insects (the males cause no damage to grass), both sexes of this lawn pest are rarely seen. Newly hatched nymphs disperse in the soil and secrete a waxy material that hardens into a shell or cyst. The cyst resembles a miniature pearl with its color varying from pearly white to yellowish or purple—hence the name. There is some evidence that a small portion of these cysts can remain dormant in the soil for several years. Signs of Ground Pearl damage to lawns include unsightly, irregular patches of grass that will eventually die out. These lawn pests suck out plant fluids and deposit a toxic salivary substance that causes your grass to turn yellow and then brown. This damage is most often seen during dry conditions. Once lawn damage caused by Ground Pearls is extensive enough to kill your grass, it rarely grows back. Instead, weeds will replace the damaged areas of your lawn—a final insult from these lawn-destroying insects.
Because this lawn insect is essentially subterranean for most of its life, little is known about its exact behavior or life cycle. It is thought that there is only one generation of Ground Pearls per year.
TruGreen® recommends promoting healthy grass growth through the use of cultural practices as the best way to reduce the damage caused by Ground Pearls. These include proper mowing techniques, regular fertilization and core aeration and the proper watering of your lawn. In the meantime, research is ongoing to find a product that is effective at controlling these lawn pests, but none is currently available.