Oh how we all love these pesky little creatures that feed & destroy our beautiful turf.... Says NO ONE EVER!!
What are Chinch Bugs?
The southern chinch bug, Blissus Insularis Barber, is one of the most important insect pests of St. Augustine grass in Texas. These pests love to feed on the sap of grass, It can be a problem anywhere St. Augustine grass is grown, causing most damage in the Gulf Coast region and in the southern half of the state.
Chinch Bugs have black bodies with white wings, each of which bears a distinctive, triangular black mark. Normally, some of the adults at any given site will have full-sized, functional wings. Other ones will be short-winged and cannot fly. (More details on distinguishing chinch bugs from the common beneficial insect – the big-eyed bug – are in “Tips for Professionals” below.) Recently hatched nymphs are wingless, yellow or pinkish-red with a light-colored band across their backs (abdomen). After each molt the nymphs more closely resemble the adults. Before the last molt, nymphs are black or brownish-black, and have a white spot and two small wing pads on their backs.
The life cycle of the chinch bug from egg to adult.
What are Favoring Conditions for Chinch Bugs
Reproduction begins with warmer weather in the spring. Under optimal conditions, each female can deposit up to 300 eggs, which hatch in approximately 2 weeks. Damaging is visible Early September- October.
The nymphal (immature) stage lasts less than 30 days during warmer weather, while the entire life cycle lasts 7 to 8 weeks. This rapid development allows time for three to five chinch bug generations each year. However, as the season progresses, generations tend to overlap, so all stages are found at the same time.
Chinch Bug damage typically begins destroying grass in the driest, full sun areas of the Lawn.
What Does Chinch Bug Damage Look Like?
Symptoms of Chinch Bug damage appear as irregular patches of lawn that resemble drought stress. These areas gradually turn yellow, then brown and then the grass dies. The dead grass will have a yellowing on the outside margin and the growth of the yellow grass will be stunted. Weeds will begin filling in the dead areas. When you see your lawn begin to look like the image below, it’s important to never rule out the damage could be from chinch bugs. More often, people will confuse this with lawn diseases such as brown patch fungus. Fortunately Chinch Bugs rarely does damage under large trees, or where the lawn is the lowest & most Shady.
What you can do to Control & Treat Chinch Bugs...
Managing this pest begins with proper lawn care. By keeping thatch to a minimum, for example, you reduce chinch bug numbers and make other control methods more effective. Thatch is the layer of dead plant material found between the green tops of the grass plant and the soil below. It provides a protective home for chinch bugs and chemically binds with many insecticides, making such controls less effective.
Proper mowing practices can help reduce thatch buildup. Excessive thatch forms when soil microbes are unable to break down dead plant material as fast as it is added. This can occur when grass is mowed too infrequently. For optimum turf grass health, no more than 35 to 40 percent of the leaf blade should be removed at a time when mowing. This means that lawns generally should be mowed at least once a week during the growing season. Mulching or recycling mowers shred grass clippings into smaller pieces that are decomposed more easily by soil microbes. Lawn aeration in combination with application of a top dressing also can help reduce thick layers of thatch. Aeration involves punching holes in the turf to increase air and water penetration. You can buy a lawn aeration machine from various retail stores or have a professional lawn care company do the work. Top dressing involves applying a thin layer of sand, soil or compost to the surface of the lawn. The application can correct moderate thatch problems by increasing soil-to-thatch contact, thus speeding up microbial decay. Applying excessive fertilizer also enhances thatch formation and makes the grass more attractive as a food source for chinch bugs. No more than 3 to 4 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet should be applied each year to St. Augustine grass in sunny locations. Too little or too much water also can cause chinch bug problems. Chinch bugs prefer hot, dry environments. Dry weather enhances survival of chinch bug nymphs and eggs by reducing the incidence of disease within chinch bug populations. Also, drought-stressed lawns are more susceptible to chinch bug injury. On the other hand, over-watering causes saturated, oxygen-deprived soils that cannot sustain the microbes needed to decompose thatch. This may sound crazy, but Dawn dish soap works great on an active chinch bug infestation using a hose end sprayer.
Lawn Maintenance is KEY!
A strong HEALTHY Lawn with healthy soil can withstand & come back from Chinch Bug damage!! Make sure you focus on Supporting Soil Biology and keeping a Monthly Lawn Care Schedule.