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Chinch Bug Alert!

While we may still get a few cold snaps, spring has officially sprung in Dallas. Fruit trees and blooming and shrubs are pushing out their new growth. The warm winter weather has created the perfect conditions for many kinds of landscape pests to get an early start. It’s only the first week of March and we’ve already seen chinch bugs going to work on your lawns.

What are Chinch Bugs?

Chinch bugs are one of the biggest pests you’ll deal with when you grow a St. Augustine grass lawn. Chinch bugs can quickly devastate your lawn, leaving you with many brown dead patches. This persistent pest begins laying eggs as soon as temperatures reach 70F degrees (think of all the 70-degree days we’ve already had!) and can lay up to 500 eggs in just two to three weeks.

It’s important to know the signs of chinch bug damage. Grass blades will have yellow edges and eventually turn brown when under attack from chinch bugs. Chinch bugs are sucking insects that take moisture and nutrients from your lawn. Unlike other sucking insects, they inject the grass with toxins that ultimately kills it. Damage occurs mostly around adjacent hardscape first, or anything else that provides radiant heat.

Chinch bugs are also lethal due to their tiny size, only about ⅕” in length. Due to their diminutive size, you may not even know you have an infestation until the damage is already done. The best place to look for these insects are on the stems of your live grass, near the soil surface. After you sit and watch closely, you’ll be able to spot them crawling around.

Don’t be fooled…

Chinch bug damage can look similar to Take-All Root Rot (TARR). This fungal disease is most active at the same time as chinch bugs. Closely evaluate your turf before jumping to using fungicides; as they will have no impact on the chinch bugs or TARR. By the time you realize your fungicide hasn’t helped, another generation of chinch bugs will be on it’s way.

Prevention and control

As with any pest prevention practice, a healthy, robust lawn grown in nutrient rich soil is your best defense against most pests and diseases. Insects are opportunistic and will cull weak plants first. Because chinch bugs thrive on excess moisture, be careful not to overwater your lawn. Regular fertilization and soil feedings will help to keep soil biology healthy and beneficial predatory insect populations active.

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