Bugs can be a cinch to deal with

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 27, 2010

So far this year I have not received too many calls about St. Augustine problems, however every year in early to mid summer the calls begin to pour in.

So, let me help some of you before the problem gets too bad with a little prevention and preparation help. Two major problems affecting St. Augustine lawns are brown patch and chinch bugs. One is a disease treated with fungicides and the other is a pest problem treated with pesticides. Both can cause havoc but this week I will focus on chinch bugs.

Q: How do I know if I have chinch bugs?

A: For those of you with Bermuda or centipede lawn chinch bugs are usually not a problem because they prefer St. Augustine as their favorite host. Chinch bugs damage is most likely to occur on lush lawns in sunny areas during times of hot dry weather.

We are expecting some chances of rain this week but the extended forecast shows some signs of continued drought and favorable conditions for future problems with these pests.

Adult chinch bugs are approximately 1/4 of an inch or less in length and are black with white wings that are folded in an ‘X’ over their back. The nymphs, or immature chinch bugs, are red with a light colored band across the back.

Q: Where do I look for chinch bugs at?

A: In order to properly identify these pests, it usually requires you to get down on your knees and part the grass between where it is showing signs of injury and healthy.

It is best to scout turf on sunny days by parting the stems and looking for the small, reddish nymphs and/or the black and white adults in the crown region or running across the exposed soil. It is important to check several sites, choosing areas where the dying and healthy grass meets.

Q: What causes chinch bugs to kill the lawn?

A: While feeding on the lawn they inject a toxin into the root system of the turf. This toxin causes heavily infested areas to turn yellow, then brown, and eventually die. Because, there are several other problems that can cause similar damage in St. Augustine, it is important to verify the presence of chinch bugs before initiating treatment.

Q: How do I treat chinch bugs?

A: If chinch bugs are identified and present, they can be controlled with common insecticides. If the infestation is heavy, a second application should be applied approximately two weeks after the initial treatment.

For control of chinch bugs, liquid treatments are usually more effective than granular treatments. Many of the liquid insecticides are available in ready-to-use hose-end applicators, which is a convenient way for homeowners to apply chinch bug treatments.

Some insecticides that are effective include Sevin Concentrate Bug Killer, Triazicide Soil and Turf Insect Killer Concentrate, or Hi-Yield 38 Plus Turf, Termite and Ornamental Insect Concentrate. Some of these products recommend you water your lawn before or after treatment so be sure to read the label.

David Carter is the director of the Adams County Extension Service. He can be reached at 601-445-8201.