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Top 12 things to remember when managing chinch bugs

October 6, 2021 -  By
Chinch bugs (left) from big-eyed bugs (right) for the best control. (Photo: D. S. Reiland)

The who’s who of insects Properly ID chinch bugs (left) from big-eyed bugs (right) for the best control. (Photo: D. S. Reiland)

When customers call to report brown areas of turf, they expect a lawn care operator (LCO) to properly identify and treat the problem. One possible culprit that can lead to that type of lawn damage is the chinch bug.

Chinch bugs can be found across the country in grasses like zoysiagrass, Bermudagrass, bluegrass and St. Augustinegrass. The pest itself is small — about 1/6 inch long as an adult — but it’s capable of inflicting turf damage.

Not only does the pest extract the nutrients from the leaf blade, but a chinch bug’s saliva also has toxins in it. That shuts down the vascular tissue in the blades, causing the grass to turn yellow or brown, says Jeff Kolbe, business consultant/manager of technical education with Spring-Green Lawn Care.

To prevent and treat for this pest, it’s important LCOs follow the top 12 tips for properly managing chinch bugs.

Do:

1. Train technicians to properly identify chinch bugs.

Because of their small size, chinch bugs are relatively difficult to find. The best place to look for them is in the space between the damaged and undamaged turf. Kolbe encourages LCOs to rake their fingers through the turf to bring the pests to the surface.

“You’ve got to get down and really look close at the turf to properly identify the problem,” Kolbe says. “In the past, people would cut off both ends of a coffee can and push it in the ground, making a seal around the bottom. Then, they would fill it up with water, causing the chinch bugs to float up to the top so they could see them.”

2. Know the chinch bug life cycle.

“The best time to treat for chinch bugs is in the summer when the nymph stage is active,” says Rakim Turnipseed, Ph.D., product development manager, insecticides, FMC. “Depending on locality, this period could be anywhere between June and September.”

3. Rotate modes of action.

“LCOs should not rely on using the same insecticide group or class to manage chinch bug populations,” Turnipseed says. “Chinch bugs are known to be resistant to pyrethroids, so proper rotation is important.”

4. Keep the lawn aerated.

Aeration reduces thatch, a chinch bug habitat, says Ben Hamza, Ph.D., product development associate director, FMC.

5. Look at warmer areas.

“Chinch bug damage will sometimes first appear in parts of the lawn that heat up more than the rest of the lawn, like the turf next to an asphalt driveway,” Kolbe says.

6. Focus on health.

Overall, LCOs can reduce the possibility of damage by focusing on the health of the turf.

“LCOs should practice proper management of water, fertility and thatch, and rotating between insecticide groups and classes will help to manage chinch bug numbers,” Turnipseed says.

Don’t:

7. Mow turf too short.

“They like tightly mown turf,” Kolbe says. “Mowing at the recommended height for the turf variety in the lawn is a great way to reduce stresses on the grass.”

Kolbe says proper height will vary depending on the type of turf, but mowing shorter than recommended will cause the turf stress and make it more susceptible to pests.

8. Wait to treat.

“Don’t delay your insect control application once you accurately identified their presence,” Hamza says. “Damaged turf is lost and requires renovation.”

Also, chinch bugs can have two to three generations if left untreated, which leads to more damage, Kolbe says.

9. Misidentify pests.

Chinch bugs can be confused with big-eyed bugs, which are natural predators of the pest. Aside from their larger eyes, big-eyed bugs are gray-brown and speckled. Chinch bugs are typically black and white.

10. Allow the lawn to get too dry or too wet.

“Chinch bugs like dry and hot conditions, and excessive watering can promote thatch buildup, so too much or too little watering can facilitate chinch bug populations,” Turnipseed says.

11. Think the absence of visible chinch bug damage means no activity.

Scout for the pest beyond the damaged area. “They may be present but at too low of a threshold count to cause damage yet,” Hamza says.

12. Confuse brown areas of grass with lack of coverage from an irrigation system.

Check the spots for a chinch bug presence to confirm.

This article is tagged with , , and posted in 1021, From the Magazine, Turf+Ornamental Care
Sarah Webb

About the Author:

Sarah Webb is Landscape Management's managing editor. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Wittenberg University, where she studied journalism and Spanish. Prior to her role at LM, Sarah was an intern for Cleveland Magazine and a writing tutor. She can be reached at swebb@northcoastmedia.net.

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