If you have a sod farm in Florida or work in the landscape business, Chinch Bugs could become a major economic problem when not taking proper control.
What are Southern Chinch Bugs and how I can identify them?
Southern Chinch Bugs (Blissus insularis) is a pest, primarily found in Southern USA. It is the primary most damaging pest of St. Augustine grass. These insects have a piercing-sucking mouthpart, which means they extract nutrients from grass stems damaging the turf in the process. Both nymphs and adults can be found in the same populations, and both can negatively affect turfgrass. Nymphs are red-orange with a horizontal white band across their back. Adults are black with white wings and are less than ¼ inches long.
What is their life cycle?
Chinch Bugs have gradual metamorphosis, which means they have 3 life stages: egg, nymph, and adult. The eggs are small and oval, and they start with a pale white color, then turn to amber, and before hatching they turn red. Females can lay over 250 eggs in their lifespan, laying about 4 eggs per day for several weeks. Adult lifespan is still debatable but under controlled conditions is between 49 days.
How do they damage my turfgrass?
With their piercing-sucking mouthparts, they extract nutrients from the turfgrass, resulting in yellow or brown patches and eventually death of the turfgrass. Moreover, creating these patches will result in infestations of opportunistic weeds within the turfgrass. Chinch Bug damage is more common in hot and dry weather, especially in dry areas of the turfgrass.
How can I control Chinch Bugs?
The use of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is recommended to reduce possible Chinch Bugs infestations.
The first step in every IPM program is the identification and monitoring of the pest. Yellow and brown patches do not necessarily mean you have Chinch Bugs in your turfgrass. To confirm the presence of chinch bugs you can test your grass using a flotation method. To test your grass, use a metal coffee can and remove the bottom, then insert the can into the soil around the yellow or brown patches of your grass. Use a knife or shovel to dig the edges of the can down 3 inches into the soil and then fill it with water continuously for five minutes. If there are Chinch Bugs in the turfgrass they will float to the top of the water.
The healthier your turfgrass, the less susceptible it will be to pest attacks. Proper irrigation, fertilization, and mowing height are important to maintain a healthy turfgrass avoiding a possible infestation of Chinch Bugs.
There are some natural predators of Chinch Bugs like the Big-eye Bug that can help maintain the population of Chinch Bugs where damage is not economically significant. Big-eyed Bugs are often confused with Chinch Bugs but can be distinguished because of their large eyes.
Southern Chinch Bugs are the main pest for St. Augustine grass. To control this pest, we need to constantly monitor the insect population and implement an IPM program in our sod farms or landscape to avoid infestations that could create economic losses.
Southern Chinch Bugs are the main pest for St. Augustine grass. To control this pest we need to monitor constantly the population of this insect and implement an IPM program in our sod farms or landscape to avoid infestations that could create economic losses.
For more information about Chinch Bugs access these “Ask IFAS” publications:
SOUTHERN CHINCH BUG, BLISSUS INSULARIS BARBER (INSECTA: HEMIPTERA: BLISSIDAE)
SCREENING METHODS FOR SOUTHERN CHINCH BUG RESISTANCE IN ST. AUGUSTINEGRASS
EFFECT OF SOUTHERN CHINCH BUG ON WEED ESTABLISHMENT IN ST. AUGUSTINEGRASS
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