These Florida summers bring many benefits to our lawns, like afternoon rains and more hours of sunlight. But they also bring a frustration that most homeowners don’t know how to manage, like pests that leave lawns looking brown and neglected.
One of our most problematic summer pests are chinch bugs, which cause Florida property owners millions of dollars of expense every year in insecticides and replacement turf. If you have yellow or brown areas in your lawn, you need to know if chinch bugs are the cause and the steps to take to eradicate them.
What Are Chinch Bugs?
The southern chinch bug is a pest of St. Augustine grass that thrives in humid summer months, with infestations peaking in early July. Large numbers of the insects will feed at the base of plant blades, sucking the sap until the blades turns yellow, wither, and die.
Because of this group feeding habit, damage occurs quickly, and this insect does not rest. When one area of grass is destroyed, the group moves to the adjacent area and repeats the process, then travels to the next lawn to seek fresh areas to feed. A relocating chinch bug population can cover over 400 feet in under an hour.
Identifying a Chinch Bug Infestation
If your lawn is showing discolored patches, you may have a chinch bug infestation. Heavy infestations are easy to identify–you may see the insects running over grass blades or even migrating as a group across pavement. It’s not always so obvious, though, so here are a couple of things you can do to check.
- Part the grass in yellowed areas and look at the soil surface and thatch. Look for small white or red eggs or for the bugs themselves. Young nymphs are red with a pale white band while adult chinch bugs are black with white wings.
- You can also use the flotation method to bring out chinch bugs. Remove the bottom of a metal coffee can and insert the can three inches into the soil of an affected area. Fill the can with water continuously for five minutes. If you have chinch bugs, they will float to the surface.
Managing Chinch Bugs
Landscape service companies like Floralawn integrate several lawn care strategies to help prevent chinch bug infestations. These include proper mowing (keeping grass at the right height to promote strong root systems), scheduled and regulated fertilizer applications, and water management.
Once an infestation occurs, chemical treatments are the most effective way to eradicate these pests. A professional landscape company like Floralawn is equipped with the necessary chemicals, equipment, and experience to handle such pests. It can sometimes take more than one treatment for complete eradication.
Homeowners in managed communities where landscape care and maintenance is provided can bring chinch bug sightings to the attention of the ground crews or management. We discourage homeowners in this kind of community from attempting chemical applications and treatments of their own as this can compromise treatments being implemented by the regular landscape service company.