Current Conditions: Chinch Bugs are Ramping Up!

Lawn examinationHas your lawn had a history of chinch bugs? If so, chances are they’re back in full force this summer. We’ve been seeing lots of chinch bug activity on our customers’ properties in the past few weeks.

We used to think of chinch bugs as just a nuisance. But over the years, they’ve become one of the most destructive turfgrass pests we deal with. Agri-scientists believe mild winters have allowed chinch bug populations to grow, and this season’s wet conditions, followed by dry spells, has made turfgrasses even more vulnerable to the bug’s destructive habits.

Chinch bug damage generally occurs during hot, dry weather from June into September; the adults become active when the daytime temperatures reach 70 degrees F.  While there are several species of chinch bugs present in North America, it’s the hairy chinch bug (Blissus leucopterus hirtus Montandon) that is most common in the northeastern U.S. from Virginia to Maine, west to Minnesota and throughout Michigan, and into southern Canada. The hairy chinch bug prefers turfgrass species such as Kentucky bluegrass, fescues, perennial ryegrass, bentgrass, and zoysiagrass.

Turf damage from chinch bugs occurs not only as a result of the bug sucking out the sap from the plants, but also from its deposit of a toxic saliva into the plant as it feeds. The saliva clogs the turf’s vascular tissues, which prevents the plant from drawing up water and nutrients. As a result, the leaves wither and die.

Chinch bug damage creates irregular patches of turf that first turn yellow, then brown. As such, the results of chinch bug feeding can easily be mistaken for drought stress. But with one important difference: those brown patches will continue to expand outward and the turf will eventually die — regardless of how much water you, or Mother Nature, provides.

To determine if chinch bugs are present in your lawn, our technicians will look for nymphs and adults around the green borders of the dead or dying grass. As a general rule, if they find more than 15 chinch bugs in two minutes of searching, it’s likely the bugs will do damage to your turf. We will then create a plan to effectively treat the infested areas of the lawn with appropriate pesticide.