Mole crickets are tan-colored, cricket-like insects that feed on plant roots. They are about one inch long, with short, stout forelegs, spade-like feet and large eyes. Young are like adults but without wings and smaller and darker.
Mole crickets tunnel underground feeding on plant roots and leaving small tunnels. Attacked grass begins to wilt and die in spots. A way of telling if you have them is to try to pull up the dead and dying grass. If you have these crickets the grass will often come up easily and will appear to have no roots. They kill the roots due to feeding and tunneling. On bare ground you may also see the tunnels, especially a day or so after a rain.
Many people think they have mole crickets, but few do. Piles of dirt or holes in the lawn are generally not signs of mole cricket. The small raised mounds of granulated dirt we see in lawns are usually caused by earthworms – not mole crickets. On closely mowed athletic turf, mole crickets make mounds but in home lawns – look for raised tunnels. Even dying grass is not proof that you have mole crickets. Look for the small, finger-width tunnels and dying grass that has no roots. This will tell you that you have mole crickets.
Mole crickets feed at night and stay under ground in the day. An interesting way to flush them out so you can see them is to mix one ounce of lemon dish-washing detergent in a gallon of water. Drench the affected area with it and wait three to five minutes. This may make some mole crickets come to the surface. This works best on well-watered areas and during warm weather.