Checking for Chinch Bugs? It’s a cinch! by Ashley Grubb

Dead patches in your lawn could be occurring right now for a number of reasons. Lack of water, fungal diseases, inadequate nutrients, places where Fido takes his bathroom breaks, or insects, could all be possible culprits. Lately, we’ve had quite a few of you bringing in pictures of dead areas in your lawn while expressing frustration because you have fertilized, and checked for broken sprinkler heads, and even spread fungicide to no avail. My next question is always, “Have you checked for chinch bugs?”

Many people don’t know that there is a quick and easy test you can do at home to find out if these annoying little pests have invaded your yard. It is called the ‘Flotation Method’. Here’s how you do it.

First, remove the top and bottom of a metal coffee can (or some other metal can from your recycle bin) so that you have a hollow metal cylinder.

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In an area where the discoloration in your sod is starting, press the can 2-3” into the grass and soil.

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Next, pour water into the can so that it is full, but not overflowing. You may need to refill once or twice if it absorbs into the grass too quickly. Within 2-5 minutes, some tiny bugs (about the size of a large pencil led) will float to the surface if chinch bugs are present. There are lots of videos and descriptions online if you need more information in regard to performing this test.

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So your can is full of bugs- now what?!?!

According to the experts at Texas A&M, control of chinch bugs starts with proper lawn care. Chinch bugs love to live in thatch- the dead plant material layer between green grass and the soil. They suggest keeping thatch to a minimum by mowing once a week during the growing season, not over fertilizing (no more than 3-4lbs of nitrogen per 1,000sqft per year), and applying the proper amount of water to prevent drought stress.

Chemical insecticides, when used according to label recommendations, provide effective control for chinch bugs. Something to keep in mind though- as with any other pests that attack your plants, there are natural predatory insects in your yard that kill them most of the time. Having these predatory insects in your yard and garden is absolutely necessary for building a healthy ecosystem and preventing constant pest outbreaks. With that being said, frequent blanket treatment of insecticides that are advertised to kill all insects for long periods of time are probably going to do more harm than good in the long run.

So what do you do? Enchanted Nurseries offer several solutions. Granular insecticides such as Nitrophos Bug Out Max can be applied to your lawn using a fertilizer spreader. After spreading, irrigate or spray the lawn with your hose to activate the insecticide. We also offer a liquid spray, Bonide Eight Yard & Garden, that is available for mixing yourself in a sprayer or simply attaching to the end of your hose and spraying. Most hose-end sprayers can apply 15-20 gallons of water per 1,000sqft per container. You won’t need to irrigate after this application method.

If you only have a few areas where you are seeing chinch bug damage, it is OK to ‘spot treat’. Treat the off color and dying turf and the surrounding area near it. Closely monitor the treated areas for two weeks after treatment to make sure that it was effective and that the damage isn’t spreading.

Both nursery locations are stocked and ready to help you back on the road to a beautiful, green lawn just in time for fall! Come visit us, enjoy a free popsicle, and get rid of those chinch bugs!