How to Control Leather Jacket


Another pest that can severely damage lawns or turf is the leatherjacket. These pests are the larvae stage of the crane fly or daddy-longlegs which live in the soil at the rooting depth of grass.

Key Facts:

  • Common names: Leatherjackets
  • Scientific names: Tipula spp.
  • Plants affected: Lawns & Turf
  • Main symptoms: Lawns turn yellow or brown patches with grass seedlings collapsing at soil level – leatherjacket grubs found in soil
  • Most active: Grubs: October-June; Adult flies: August-October

Leather Jacket Stages
Have you got a leatherjacket problem?

  • Leatherjacket grubs have long tubular bodies of about 30mm in length, and are greyish brown with no legs or distinct head
  • Adult crane flies or daddy-longlegs actively lay eggs in the soil surface from August to October
  • Eggs hatch a few weeks after they have been laid and these young leatherjackets start to feed on plant roots as long as conditions are mild enough
  • Look out for patches of yellowish or brown lawn. You can rule out the effects of lawn disease or waterlogging by lifting up the turf and finding leatherjackets as described above. When fully grown, the leatherjackets grubs pupate in the soil. When the adult crane fly emerges, the pupal case is often partly pulled out of the ground and left sticking up above the lawn surface.
  • Another method is to soak the lawn with water and covering it with material impervious to light, such as black polythene. The next day large numbers of leatherjacket grubs can be found on the lawn surface under the cover
  • Crows, magpies, rooks and starlings will actively hunt for leatherjackets in turf. These birds can leave small round holes in the turf where they have inserted their beaks. These birds can also search out for chafer grubs in a similar way
  • Damage can also be seen in flower beds or vegetable plots. Seedlings and small plants can be killed when the stems are damaged at soil level


Non-chemical control

Very effective biological controls agents are also available specifically for targeting leatherjackets in lawns, flower beds and vegetable plots. These microscopic worms or nematodes act as predators against the leatherjacket grub in the soil.

There are two different species of nematodes with one targeting Spring grubs Nematrident L – Spring Application and the other targeting the Autumn larvae Nematrident L Autumn Application.
These products are sold in 100m2, 500m2 and 1000m2 packs which can be applied with watering cans, Nemasprayers, knapsack sprayers or even boom sprayers.

These are applied to moist soil and the nematodes enter the bodies of leatherjacket grubs and infect them with a bacterial disease.
Soil temperatures are critical for maximum efficacy and again, a soil temperature probe is recommended.
It is always advisable to treat outside of the visible affected areas as the pest can spread onto surrounding lawns and flower beds. Watering well after application is also essential for maximum efficacy.

For additional control, a Spring application should be followed by the Autumn product to control newly hatched larvae.

There are no chemical methods left on the market for leatherjacket control (previously Merit Turf).

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