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Stranger than Fiction: Ground pearls

What do you do with numerous, tiny, ‘other-worldly’ spheres, associated with the patch of yellowing turfgrass in your yard? Actually, there’s not much you can do except collect the spheres and place them in the trash. These tiny spheres are remnants of the encysted Margarodes spp. scale insect, and are commonly called “ground pearls.”

            

[Photos L-R: UF/IFAS]

Although more likely to be found damaging lawns in cooler regions, e.g. NW Florida, when encountered, ground pearls resemble creatures sometimes featured in Sci-Fi movies. They are  subterrestrial scale insects, approx. 4.3 mm, completely encased in a spherical, waxy ‘armor’, except for their mouthparts, which they use to suck fluids from turfgrass roots, Centipedegrass being their most susceptible host.

                 

[Photos L-R: UF/IFAS; https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/; UF/IFAS]

The waxy armor encapsulating the insect forms a protective barrier which allows it to survive adverse conditions and pesticide treatments. However, a well-managed lawn (adequate irrigation, correct mowing height, etc.), is the best defense against a ground pearl infestation.

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