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Daddy-Longlegs Chemical Ban

October 2013

Daddy-Longlegs Chemical Ban - Now in Effect!

It has been a good year for daddy-longlegs. Many of us have fond memories from childhood of daddy-longlegs (or crane flies if you prefer their official name) as they endear themselves to children because they are easily caught and of course they don’t bite.
But daddy-longlegs aren’t as harmless as they appear - their larvae, known as leatherjackets, live in the soil and can cause enormous problems in a garden.

Now in October we are coming to the end of the daddy-longlegs season but this is actually when the problems start. Daddy longlegs will have been laying eggs in the surface of the soil from mid August. While the dry soil conditions we experienced meant that many of the eggs may have failed to hatch, a damper autumn has worked in favour of the survival of the eggs and now, after a few weeks, the young larvae or leatherjackets as they are called are emerging.

These young leatherjackets feed on plant roots. In cold winters, they overwinter as small larvae and do not grow large enough to cause significant damage until mid-summer. Mild winters however allow the young larvae to continue feeding and they can be large enough to cause serious lawn problems by late winter. Not only can they cause lawns to develop patches where the grasses turn yellowish brown and die, but they can also kill small plants by damaging their stems are soil level. Lawns can also be damaged from crows, magpies, rooks and starlings which search for leatherjackets in the surface soil.

In the past there has been a chemical pesticide for use on lawns called imidaclorprid (Bayer Provado Laewn Grub Killer) which had to be applied in early autumn when the leatherjackets are small and more vulnerable. However, because of concern over its effect on bees and other problems, a ban came into effect on September 30th making it illegal to use this product and remaining products have to be taken to a manned local authority household waste site.

For information on waste disposal sites, see

There is however a period of grace and these products can be used until the end of November this year if necessary.

Biological control is possible through products such as Steinernema feltiae which is watered into the turf or soil.

Leatherjackets that survive to develop with continue feeding throughout the winter until they pupate and the next generation of adult crane fly or daddy-longlegs emerges.

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